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If you’ve never had a family member, friend or loved one who has been diagnosed with cancer, you’re either very, very lucky or you’re a liar.
I remember back when I was in high school, cancer was something that your friend’s neighbor’s uncle had. It seemed so foreign.
Then, when I got to college, it was something that happened to my friends’ mothers. It began to get more real.
Year after year, it kept hitting closer to home until, last year, bam, like a smack upside the head, it did hit home.
I recall every word of the conversation my mother and I had a little more than a year ago today when she told me there was something slightly abnormal with her mammogram and she had to have a small procedure.
Only a mother would protect her grown child while delivering the news.
Or maybe she just didn’t want to say the word—cancer.
My mother is a unique woman. She was also lucky in that they caught the cancer very early, she had wonderful doctors and a rock-solid support system. In fact, the night of her surgery she had a nurse help her power walk the halls of the Betty Cameron Women and Children’s Center because the avid runner and all around busy-body doesn’t like to “idle like spare parts.” Her words, not mine. I have no idea what that means. It’s just one of the many things that my charming, Polish-born mother says from time to time.
Weeks later, if even that long, and very much against her doctor’s orders, she was running again. She completed a six-week round of radiation, and, a year later, she’s as good as new.
I pray every day we don’t have to repeat that conversation we had last year.
But someone will.
At this writing, someone is likely being delivered that news that will change his or her life.
As I write this, Tony Caison is in a cancer treatment center in Texas beginning a two-month regiment of chemotherapy for his pancreatic-type cancer.
His wife is there with him, probably extremely worried but acting bravely for the sake of her husband and their two boys, who are back here at home in Brunswick County.
I’ve known Tony for probably as long as I’ve been at the Beacon, which is going on six years. He’s a detective sergeant at the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office.
Tony took me on my first ride-along. Our former cops reporter was handing over the crime beat to me and he took me along on a ride-along where sheriff’s deputies were checking on registered sex offenders, making sure they were where they said they’d be.
I refused to get out of the car. Seriously. I was convinced I would be shot.
Tony probably thought I was totally nuts. He may have even gotten a few laughs at my expense, but I’ll tell you what, he never made me feel uncomfortable for my concerns, even as ridiculous as they now seem.
I’ve been on several ride-alongs since, including one pre-dawn drug roundup in Longwood, where I was left alone. In the dark. In the Quarters. During a drug roundup.
Then, I wished I hadn’t gotten out of the car.
Since that first ride-along with Tony, we’ve worked together many times. I can’t count how many stories I’ve written on about a case he was investigating. There were many. If I was working on a story on deadline he always returned my calls. Always.
I’ve also been fortunate enough to get to know him.
I know he loves the Pittsburgh Steelers. I know he was star tackle on West Brunswick’s 1991 state runner-up football team. I know he loves his wife madly and his kids dearly.
And I know his family—at church, at home, at the sheriff’s office, and especially his brother Gene—love him.
His family has rallied behind him. His wife found him the best doctors, the best treatment centers and surgeons in the country. His co-workers have set up a fund at a local bank. They’re selling T-shirts and Koozies and hosting a fundraiser to help raise money for what is sure to be an extremely expensive road to recovery.
He may be in Texas, but I hope he knows he’s got a whole county here at home thinking about him and praying for him.
Tony has an unbreakable spirit and, more than anything else, unwavering faith. And if there are two things you need to beat cancer, those two are it.
Caroline Curran is a staff writer and columnist at The Brunswick Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @cgcurran.