According to a 2013-2015 study conducted by the National Cancer Institute, 38.4% of men and women will receive a cancer diagnosis at some point during their lifetime.
Between themselves and their families, cancer will affect nearly every student at CBC at some point in their lifetime. It is a life-altering event that can never be prepared for, especially when there is a family depending on you.
“My particular kind of cancer was a pretty aggressive cancer, and so they had to start treatment fast,” said Aaron New, chair of behavioral sciences department, who was diagnosed in 2007.
New said he was diagnosed with a form of Hodgkin’s lymphoma called Burkett’s at the age of 36. He had no family history of cancer, which left the New family shocked at the discovery. New was treated with eight rounds of chemotherapy. Due to the aggressiveness of his condition, he said that treatment often left him sick and unable to fulfill his desires as a husband and father.
“At some point, I just had to resign myself to the fact that for a season, I wasn’t going to be a very good dad or a very good husband, and I had to just let them take care of me,” said New.
He said that it often felt as if he was battling the chemo more than the cancer, which took a toll on him mentally, physically and emotionally.
After his first round of chemo, New’s heart rate responded negatively to the medication and dropped to resting in the mid-30 beats per minute. He was quickly submitted into the Intensive Care Unit and was attached to monitors, vest and other medical equipment in case of emergency. That night, New said he struggled to sleep, fearing that he would never wake up, but he also realized his most important lesson; Christ was holding him fast.
“I finally just said, ‘God, I gave my heart to you years ago when I asked you saved me. I’m just literally giving you my heart tonight and you make it beat however you want to,’” said New.
Similarly, junior Karlee Pense said she was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. At the time she was 15 and went through chemo for four months with radiation for a month after that.
“I always love to say that everyone has a history of cancer in their family, but for me, it wasn’t that cancer. I have a lot of breast cancer in my family, but I had never had anyone have lymphoma in my family,” said Pense.
Although her family had other medical problems, the diagnosis came as a shock. Her parents quickly stepped up, her mother working as her caretaker while working a full-time job, and her father remaining the main source of income.
“I’ve had major struggles when I was younger,” said Pense. “I had depression and I had an eating disorder and I think that really broke me. That was actually a few years before I was diagnosed with cancer, so I think that really prepared me into going into my treatments.”
Her family support may have been an indescribable blessing, but Pense recognized that the only reason she was able to make it through was Christ.
“I don’t understand how people can go through something like that and not have Christ,” said Pense. “That’s the only reason I got through is just prayer everyday and knowing that I had people all over the world praying for me just was a great blessing.”
Junior Jarrett Maxwell said his father also clung tightly to his faith during cancer treatment before ultimately passing away when Maxwell was 12.
“My dad for two years battled with this and he found the Lord in every fasset,” said Maxwell.
Through his father’s illness, Maxwell said he was able to witness what it truly meant to be a loyal spouse, parent and example to those around him. Although the event of his father’s passing tore a hole in Maxwell’s life, he said he wouldn’t change it.
“It’s in God’s hands and God has a purpose and a rhyme and reason for everything [and] we’ve seen that,” said Maxwell. “Even if it seems like your world is falling apart, it doesn’t. I’m still living. I’m a living testimony, my life has many opportunities open for me personally because of it and so there definitely is a silver lining to one of the worst things that can happen to a human being and I’m sure my dad would say the same thing if he were standing here right now.”
Photo by Kat Carson