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Keven Moore: His cancer journey shared — with lessons learned from his own battle with cancer

It was like any other early October evening. I was standing in the kitchen when my wife said “come here” and started feeling around my neck and said, “do you know you have a lump on your neck?” That’s how my cancer story began.  

Being married to a nurse has its pluses and negatives, but I would have to say it mostly has its advantages. She can honestly say she saved my life.

Having cancer has its emotional ups and downs. I have tried to take it in stride and tune out the “what if” as I waited for a diagnosis. I felt that it was cancer; the only question was how bad was it? The hardest part of the journey was those 4 weeks to get ultrasound and biopsy results.

Keven Moore works in risk management services. He has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Kentucky, a master’s from Eastern Kentucky University and 25-plus years of experience in the safety and insurance profession. He is also an expert witness. He lives in Lexington with his family and works out of both Lexington and Northern Kentucky. Keven can be reached at kmoore@roeding.com

One in three people are diagnosed with cancer in their lifetimes. It was early on a pretty Saturday afternoon as I sat down to watch college football that I got the news. The doctor said it was Papillary Thyroid Cancer, a relief really because of the high survivability rate.

Fast forward to the middle of February, after a 6 1/2 hour surgery to remove my thyroid and some 40 other lymph nodes I that could spare and radiation treatment to kill off the remaining cancer cells. I am looking at my cancer battle in my rearview mirror. I no longer have a metabolism, but a daily hormone pill should keep me in line.  

As a columnist who highlights everyday risks and exposures, I can’t tell you how to prevent cancer, but I can share some lessons to provide some hope and encouragement.

Here goes:

Cancer Is Not Always a Death Sentence – God has a purpose for everything, even so. When I was waiting for my diagnosis, I had an overwhelming calmness come over me. At the age of 57 with adult kids, I had accomplished just about everything that I had set out to accomplish. All I ever wanted was a decent paying job, good friends, a healthy family, a lifetime of living, and the joy of watching my kids grow into adults. Maybe a couple of grandkids to spoil one day.

The number of cancer survivors continues to increase in the United States thanks to research, modern medicine and the growth and aging of the population as well as advances in early detection and treatment. More than 16.9 million Americans (8.1 million males and 8.8 million females) with a history of cancer were alive on January 1, 2019; this number is projected to reach more than 22.1 million by January 1, 2030, based population growth alone.

Be Honest with Your Family – The hardest part was telling my adult kids. What a tear-jerker that was. It’s best to get the things you dread most over with, so I called my wife first and then called each of my three adult kids. Luckily it took less than 24 hours for them to grasp the projected survivability and realize I was undoubtedly going to be around a lot longer to embarrass them and offer up plenty of unsolicited fatherly advice.

Everybody’s Battle With Cancer Is Different – I learned that many people choose to fight their battle with cancer in private while others are very open with it. There is no right or wrong way of dealing with it; it’s just a personal choice.

I didn’t tell anybody outside my immediate family for the first 3 weeks after I got the results. Only then did I call my friends and family individually because I wanted them to hear it from me directly; and the last thing I wanted was sympathy. I then announced my cancer to my co-workers in a mass email and then on Facebook after Thanksgiving just to get it over with.   

You Will Be Welcomed By Other Cancer Survivors – There is a huge community of cancer survivors who welcomed me into their club with open arms and encourage me and offered advice. It’s funny how that works. Local WKYT newscaster Kristen Kennedy reported that she too had Thyroid Cancer. I reached out to her to put her at ease explaining the hardest part of the treatment was the surgery which was bearable and telling her to what to expect. She was grateful.  

People Care About You & You Need to Allow Them To Show It – What touched me most was the number of people who reached out. I must say that was the greatest gift you can give somebody fighting cancer or any other struggle.
People texted, emailed, and called, just to check-in. It became a bit overwhelming, but the love was genuine. Some responded with a joke because they knew I always handle adversity with good humor. One friend offered to babysit my wife and another asked if I had started to grow man-boobs from the new hormone therapy that I was taking. One neighbor/friend even dropped off some hot homemade vegetable soup — and I ate every drop.

Those are the kind of friends you want as you go through any kind of struggle. I had been through some adversity and lost my entire family — father, sister, mother, and then a grandmother, uncle, cousin all within 16 months. I learned that humor was my only relief and when I laughed, the dark clouds parted briefly and then one day the storm left.  

I encourage you to tell your story. You will be amazed at the number of people who care and will show you the love that you may need as your go through your fight with cancer. I would also encourage others to take the time to send that text message, make that call or drop by when somebody is going through a struggle.

Good Humor Always Wins – I decided to post those funny stories about my situation on Facebook. My wife would try to be so serious and I was cracking jokes with the surgeon or a nurse, but it was my way of dealing with my cancer. More proof that opposites attract.

Being okay with death makes the situation more bearable. Doom and gloom is depressing and morbid. Laughter is the best medicine, regardless of the situation.  

So I made sure to ask my surgeon if she got plenty of sleep the night before my surgery, which made her chuckle for a couple of seconds. I also told the anesthesiologist to kick me if I started to snore because that’s what my wife would do. I used a Robert Duvall line in the movie “Apocalypse Now” and told the radiologist that “I just love the smell of cancer dying in the morning,” which made him laugh. I made sure to to let everybody know that I now qualified for medical marijuana.

Being left with a scar across your throat would bother many, but I embraced it by telling my co-workers that my new nickname was Mr. Cut Throat. Life is too short to be uptight, worried, or too serious. Laughter sets the mood you are in, so my advice is to find a reason to laugh.

There May be Guilt For Being A Survivor – I also found going through this ordeal that I had started to have some sense of guilt at times. I knew I wasn’t going to die from this cancer, and my doctor looked me in the eye and made me that promise.

So I wasn’t in any real pain and wasn’t having to go through any chemo-therapy. But it was still cancer and it was a 4 ½ month ordeal. Yet there were so many people going through much worse. I will make sure that I pay it forward and ask all readers to do the same.

Find The Purpose For Your Ordeal and Slow Down And Listen – The Big C makes us realize how mortal we really are. We are all racing through life at 100 MPH and then one day you run into a brick wall called Cancer. When it happened to me, it occurred to me that we are all dying but is it weeks, months, years, or decades away. So just live, but slow down and listen for the big guy upstairs to show you your purpose moving forward.

I have since found myself opening up to him more than I ever have. I accepted an invitation to join a bible study which is very uncharacteristic of me, only later to discover that it was Saturday morning at 8a, which made it even that much more challenging. But I have yet to miss one meeting some 5 weeks later.

I cannot say yet that I am cancer free, but the scans have revealed that we caught it early, it didn’t spread, and radiation likely killed the remaining cancer cells in my neck region. I won’t have that answer for several months but I look forward to high-fiving my doctor when I get the answer.

I don’t know what my purpose is just yet, I just know that I have to open up my heart to let the Lord inside so that he can reveal that purpose.

Don’t Let Cancer Control Your Happiness and Learn To Be A Fighter – I had already decided that whatever the diagnosis I was not going to let cancer control my happiness. I was not going to let it define me and I wasn’t going to let it take me out of this world without a fight.  

I learned that cancer survivors are a brave breed of people who never wanted to join the club, but were forced to face their struggles head-on and fight for their lives. Battling cancer, you have to go into a fighting mentality. You have to face it head-on, remain positive and be prepared to punch it in its mouth. It is that combatant spirit that will give you your strength to live another day.

I don’t know if my war is over, but I do know I won this battle. Adding icing to the cake was going to the mailbox to learn that I had received a rather nice size check from the Cancer policy my employer had provided me. Nothing like getting paid as a prizefighter to kick Cancer’s Ass!!!

Be Safe My Friends!

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