Frank Pickard: finding the missing piece at Wellspring

June 20, 2023

A Life-Altering Revelation

Frank Pickard is grateful to be alive, relatively stable, and doing as well as possible, in year four of what is commonly viewed as a five-year cancer monitoring window. He is especially cognizant of his all-around good fortune, given the prognosis of a 35 percent chance of recovering from two cancers found within three months of each other in 2019.

Recalling the sequence of events, Frank recounts, “I wasn’t feeling well, prompting doctors to conduct some tests, which unveiled the presence of esophageal cancer. Then, a few months later, after further examinations, they uncovered thyroid cancer—an entirely distinct type, unrelated to the first one.”

Navigating the Unexpected

A treatment plan was promptly put into action, involving chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and the use of a feeding tube. Surgery was scheduled for August 2019, intended to eliminate both cancerous areas. However, the operation to remove the esophageal tumor took an unexpected turn, necessitating the removal of a significant portion of Frank’s stomach. To prioritize his well-being, the decision was made to postpone the thyroid surgery.

Frank underwent a second surgery two months later, this time targeting his thyroid and parathyroid glands. Fortunately, both operations were deemed successful. During the recovery period, he relied on a feeding tube for several months, followed by the guidance of a nutritionist to adapt his dietary habits, ensuring optimal absorption of vital nutrients by his body.

Frank reflects on his experience with utmost praise for the medical system, including the exceptional competence of the doctors and nurses involved in his treatment and surgeries. However, he notes a void in terms of emotional support. He shares, “I felt that I needed additional assistance on the emotional front, if you will.”

Seeking Support

Frank expresses deep gratitude towards his unwavering wife, Rosemary, who has been a constant source of support throughout their journey. He acknowledges the backing of their four adult children, close relatives, the strength derived from his faith, and the enduring friendships fostered within the community they have called home for half a century. Yet, despite this support network, something crucial was still lacking.

“In the beginning, I struggled with sleep, and once that was resolved, I was plagued by extreme fatigue,” he confides. “There were days when it felt nearly impossible to carry on.”

The persistent fatigue, among other challenges, compelled Frank and Rosemary to embark on a relentless search for additional avenues of support. Their search led them to the Edmonton Cancer Clinic library, where they discovered invaluable books on esophageal cancer. They also stumbled upon the Canadian Cancer Society’s Cancer Connection, which introduced them to a virtual community replete with forums, groups, and news updates.

Although they found Wellspring in Edmonton, their hopes of physical interaction were thwarted by the advent of the Covid pandemic. Frank yearned for in-person conversations with individuals who shared his specific cancer experience

Together in the Journey

When he enrolled in the ACE (Alberta Cancer Exercise) program, a community-based exercise program designed specifically for individuals undergoing or recovering from cancer treatment, Frank began to feel he was making some headway in the non-medical side of recovery. But it wasn’t until the world reopened and he could attend ‘Men’s Group’ at Wellspring, that he really started to feel the support he needed most.

“Men’s Group has been quite beneficial to me. I still haven’t met a lot of men who have esophageal cancer, but the men in this group all have cancer or had cancer, and many have been through chemo and radiation and they are having similar issues – especially fatigue. We can relate to each other. We listen, tell our stories, talk about how we try to overcome the difficulties, or just talk about life,” said Frank.

Frank is deeply committed to helping other people find their way to Wellspring. “When it comes to help with the emotional part of cancer, Wellspring has come to the forefront,” he said. He feels there are many who don’t know about all the programs and resources offered for free at Wellspring and he is looking for ways to get the word out. He is also aware that men don’t always feel comfortable seeking help for their problems.

“Cancer is a terrible disease, but it helps when you can talk to other people who are on the same journey – even if it’s a different type of cancer. You see a lot of bravery – people who have dealt with some pretty terrible things, but they pick up and move forward. We are all in the same boat.”

6 Responses

  1. Frank, thank you so much for sharing your story with the community! You are such an essential part to the Men’s Group and the overall environment here at Wellspring Alberta Edmonton House.

  2. Frank, thanks for sharing. I knew most of the story from our talks in the Men’s Group. I look forward to hearing more in our group about life, dealing with cancer and now how your ukulele is coming along!

  3. Wonderfully said and good luck with that 5 year check up. From your positive attitude I’m sure you’ll have a healthy diagnosis.

  4. Hi Frank,

    I have had thyroid cancer too and can certainly relate to your experience with extreme fatigue. It would be helpful if surgeons & nurses shared the Wellspring resource with patients following diagnosis as I could have benefited from it sooner. All the best with your health journey & thanks for thinking of others!

  5. I always look forward to Men’s Group and talking with Frank. Having someone who has survived for that long and a friendly listener has been a wonderful support. Frank, I hope you having fun with ukulele and that it supports y ou ongoing recovery.

  6. Thank you Frank for updating your journey with your type of cancer. My grandfather passed away a long time ago from the same cancer when there was no chance of survival in 1942 he made a trip from central Alberta to the Mayo Clinic in the USA as he was a former citizen. There is hope as the years progress and I am sos glad to know you have survived this awful rial with both cancers and survived. My one years since diagnosis of breast cancer has been long and hard to do but as you say, it can be done. Many thanks and best of luck in your future now you are almost there. Anne.

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