My name is Tony and I am a recovering cancer patient.
by Tony, Wellspring Member
Wellspring gave me something to look forward to, encouragement, and smiles and hugs when I needed them.
My name is Tony and I am a recovering cancer patient. I have battled the disease twice, and I now live with a physical reminder of my cancer. I didn't know about Wellspring during my first fight with the disease. A friend and former member told me about Wellspring after my second diagnosis, and I do not think I would have made it had I not walked through Wellspring's doors.
About a year after was told I was cancer free, they found another tumor growing in the right side of my neck. An 8½ hour surgery removed the tumor along with my saliva glands. They took muscles from my shoulder and breast to rebuild my neck. Because of the radiation I had received during my first bout with cancer, the skin on my neck had to be replaced; they took a large piece of skin from my breast to do this. I had countless stitches. I couldn't speak or taste, and lost a considerable amount of weight. I was sent home a week after my surgery. I live alone and had no help. I couldn't raise my right arm and was extremely weak, and could only get around with a cane. Sometimes I still feel like there is a cat sitting on my right shoulder with his claws digging into me.
Cancer really aged me. The changes were so drastic and, unlike normal aging, happened quickly. I didn't recognize myself and I had a hard time accepting the physical changes in my appearance. Even though I live alone it took almost a year before I could walk through my apartment without a T-shirt.
Walking through the front door of Wellspring was a gigantic step for me. I entered with a huge weight on my shoulders. I met with a peer support volunteer, and cried, with the tears came a lot of emotion; grief for the loss of my abilities and the changes to my physical appearance, and anger at having had to face cancer not once, but twice. I left feeling relieved and didn't come back. Sharing my feelings was a new experience for me, one that I, like many men, wasn't sure I was ready for.
I did return to Wellspring several months later to attend the Relaxation and Visualization group. There was a large group that day. At first I stayed quiet and listened to the other people; this helped me realize that I wasn't alone. Although it was really hard for me to do, I opened up that day and spoke about all that I was experiencing.
I have always felt safe at Wellspring, even when I have my guard down - and at Wellspring they do seem to have a way of helping you bring out things that are deep inside. Wellspring became my starting point for the week and provided me with a refreshingly different cancer experience than I experienced in the hospital. At Wellspring the leaders, volunteers and other members paid attention to me, I was more than just a number or diagnosis. At Wellspring I know that when I said "I'm not feeling well', that people understand - people who haven't lived with cancer don't get it.
Wellspring helped me with more than my emotional issues. I wasn't able to work, and was having trouble paying my rent- through the Money Matters program I met with a case worker who helped me to access the financial supports available to me. When I was feeling better I participated in the return to work program. This course helped me tremendously; I had been off work for almost two years and I am now back working full time.
I come back to Wellspring whenever time allows and take every chance I get to tell someone about Wellspring and how these people got me back on the right path. I tell people with cancer that "Wellspring will give you strength like you won't believe. Wellspring supplies you the tools to make you mentally better.” I almost always have a Wellspring brochure in my coat pocket, just in case it might help someone.