Diagnosis:  Sarcoma, October 2013

From a patient interview on Sept. 5, 2014

Sarcoma Oncology Center

Dennis was driving one day when he suddenly hit a parked vehicle. He had blacked out. He was disoriented and didn’t remember anything about what had caused the accident. The accident rendered his car undriveable, so his car was towed and Dennis was left at the scene of the accident, carless and confused. Although disoriented, Dennis began walking to the tow yard to claim his vehicle but while en route he got the feeling something was seriously wrong. He then redirected his walk to the nearest hospital.

When he arrived at the hospital he could hardly complete his intake form. When he started writing his name backwards, the hospital staff realized the severity of the situation and immediately admitted him into the hospital. He can’t recall what happened next other than when he regained consciousness, he was in another hospital. Emergency brain surgery had been performed on him that morning, but Dennis had no recollection of it. It was estimated that he only had a 5% chance of making it through the surgery. Dennis had a mass, which had caused a seizure making him black out. At the same time, doctors found a tumor under his tongue. He remained in the hospital for 21 days recovering from surgery, and the sublingual tumor had still yet to be treated.

After his discharge from the hospital following brain surgery, Dennis met with an oncologist at a different treatment center and started chemotherapy-based treatment. The treatment proved unsuccessful and Dennis’ weight dropped down to very unhealthy 112 pounds. The doctor treating Dennis recommended he see a doctor that has been following his case very closely from the beginning: Dr. Chawla.

Before meeting with Dr. Chawla, Dennis had consulted with another facility that advised that he should go into hospice. They said there was nothing they could do for him; he was diagnosed with stage-4 inoperable cancer.

Nothing was working for Dennis until he came to the Sarcoma Center. When Dennis first arrived at Sarcoma Oncology, he could hardly walk, he couldn’t eat, and he couldn’t talk. He recalls Dr. Chawla’s confidence in his ability to treat him.

Dennis shares his personal story of his experiences with the Sarcoma Oncology Center:

I had hope, but I was 112lbs by then from the chemo treatment, and I couldn’t walk more than the distance of three houses. I met with Dr. Chawla and a few members of his team and Dr. Chawla looked at me and said, ‘I’ll give you a week off. We’ll get you on the regimen, I’ll tell you what it is.’ I started and within two weeks, I’d gained eight pounds and ever since then from 112 to 200 pounds now. Ever since I’ve been here, it’s been nothing but good news. I had nausea when I first started, but not now. When I come in, I just meet with everyone, just tell them my story. Each person’s story is more incredible than the next.

Two weeks after Dennis was released from his 21-day hospital stay, his brother-in-law passed away from stomach cancer. He recalls being at the funeral standing next to his sister when she turned to him and said, “I don’t know what we would do without you.”

That’s what I do it for, my family. That’s why I push myself so hard.”

Dennis now works out 5 days a week, and on 3 of those days he runs 10 miles. He has since run 38 half marathons and 36 full marathons. In roughly half of the marathons he has run, he came across someone who was struggling and about to quit. He then tells them his story and encourages them to finish the race, running alongside them until the end. Dennis says he would rather finish slow but know he has helped inspire someone to keep pushing forward, than to finish the race quickly.

His philosophy is that constant positivity and mental strength can get you through the hardest times in life.

Mom would always say, ‘He’s sick’ and I would say, ‘I’m not sick, I just have cancer’. People make it so big, but I just made it so small that it doesn’t become a thing anymore. I remember how horrible I felt when I found out I had cancer. But I wonder how bad cancer felt when it realized it had me. People have cancer an its hard to go through it, but you see, it’s up to you to decide not to quit.”

Dennis now says his main goal in life is to outlive everyone. Thanks to the medical team at Sarcoma Oncology, he now has the chance to fulfil this dream.

Mother, Jacqueline comments: “When Dennis was at his sickest, I didn’t know what to do. I just prayed. Dennis is just so kind-hearted towards other people. So now he’s living and telling his story to other patients so that they’ll have the courage to fight this thing.”