I Am A Two-Time Cancer Survivor: This Is My Story
29 August 2013

Let me start from the beginning. My name is Joseph Alexander Nagy, Jr. I was born on May 19, 1978 and have one sister who is two years younger then I am.
I also have cancer.

You see, around December 1995, I was diagnosed with synovial soft tissue sarcoma, a cancer that attacks the synovial glands which lubricate the joints, in my left elbow. Now, while just being diagnosed with cancer is bad enough, I just happen to be left handed so you could imagine how I felt. I was active in softball, I was in JROTC, I hung out with my friends when I could. I was almost your typical teenage boy. Before I was diagnosed I dreamed of one day joining the military, thinking if I did well and got promoted to a rank where my opinion started to matter, I might be able to help the world become a little less hateful, and maybe a little more conscious to what we were doing to not only each other but to our planet. All those hopes and dreams were dashed to pieces on that fateful day in late December. I never asked for much from anyone, just respect me and I would respect you. I still had my dreams of maybe helping to bring about world peace. I had many friends who liked a lot of my ideas towards attaining that goal, but that is not why I am creating this page, I am creating this page to let everyone of you who come here know what it is like to have to live with cancer, to live with the fact that I have watched friends literally die from cancer, and what it's like to have to watch more friends be diagnosed with cancer. I tell you what...it is not easy, and it's not something you ever get used to.

I have been in remission for nearly 7 yrs now, but I know that it can all change in the blink of an eye and there is not to much I can do about it accept pray that it doesn't ever happen, pray that I don't have to watch any of my friends be diagnosed with cancer (well, it's already to late for that), to hear about FAMILY members being diagnosed with cancer, to hear about my friends being diagnosed with cancer (to late for that as well), to watch as MY friends and family die from something that we are now only beginning to understand, something that is only now starting to let us see the how and why it happens. Something that has no regard for race, color, creed, nationality or any of those things that people think is important. Guess what folks, it's not. The only important thing in life is to remember that YOU ARE HUMAN, the man or woman sitting next to you is human, the people in the house down the street are human. Cancer can and does hit without warning. It happens to the best of us and the worst of us, sinners and saints alike aren't spared. I don't know why cancer happens, I don't know how it chooses it's victims, thats not why I created this page, I don't have those answers. I only made this to share my experience with you. To tell you that THERE is hope, there are so many new breakthroughs in medicine today that maybe, one day in the future, doctors will be able to claim a final victory over all forms of cancer. I hope that you and me live to see that day, I really do, because I tell you what, it's going to be the biggest event in all of history.

I know that I told you that I was going to tell you what it's like living with cancer, and I am, I am. I just needed to show you where I am coming from, to show you my point of views so that maybe you'll leave this site with a better understanding of who I am and maybe what it's like to have cancer. If I can leave you with that understanding, then I have done my job.

My Experience

When I first heard that I had cancer, I was devastated.

Let me tell you a little about how I came to find out I had cancer. It started in July 1995 when I started to notice a pain in my elbow, at the time I didn't think nothing of it because when I would read, I would lay down on my left side in bed and read like that for hours at a time. Since the pain didn't last long I didn't pay much attention to it. It wasn't until that September that the pain would become more annoying then anything else. I tried using Flexall 454 and that seemed to help for the time being. The following November I noticed a lump in my arm while I put on some more Flexall 454 but my parents said it wasn't anything and the pain went away for a short time. That December the lump was noticable and the Flexall 454 didn't work anymore. I was finally able to convince my parents to take me to the doctor for some x-rays. I went, he took the x-rays and then referred me to a local specialist, who sent me back to my Primary Care Physician. I knew then it couldn't be good. After some discussion, it was determined that I should see an Orthopedic Surgeon (Dr. Schwartz) and a Pediatric Hemotologist (Dr. Whitlock) at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN . Needless to say, I crumbled and cried when I found out.

What else could I do? I had just been told that I had a disease that could KILL me, and the only way to beat this could also possibly kill me. On top of that, the Mayo Clinic (no, not the Mayonaise Clinic, be serious people, kids, ask your parents about the Mayo Clinic) wanted to cut my arm off at the elbow and be done with it, not only did I have cancer, but people who are supposed to be able to help cure it wanted to cut my arm off. When I first talked to my surgeon, Dr. Schwartz, I made him promise to do everything he could to save my arm. Even after I made that promise, I was scared because if he couldn't get it all, or it recurred, my arm would get cut off any ways. Thoughts of living without my left arm ran through my head as I sat there. I didn't like it, I didn't like it at all. In the weeks following my diagnosis and the biopsy, thoughts of suicide ran through my head as an alternative (and still do). Something that would end the pain. Selfish, yes, but I did think about it, and after a manner, dismissed it. If not for myself, then because I knew it would only give the people I love more pain to deal with, and well, I couldn't stand the thought of making my friends and family suffer. So hear I am, still alive, although suicide still crosses my mind on occasion. I'm happy to say that the picture at the top of the page was taken just before I graduated Warren County High School in 1997, and as you can see, I still have both arms and hands. For that I am forever in Dr. Schwartz's and Dr. Whitlocks' debt. But that isn't until much later on. That photo was taken AFTER I endured 10 weeks of radiation therapy (50 treatments in all) and 9 months of chemotherapy. The chemotherapy was nearly the hardest thing of all to endure. You see, the reason it is called chemo therapy is because it is short for chemical therapy. They put "medicine" in you that is designed to do one thing, KILL the cancer cells, but in the process, it slowly eats away at you. It starts off with getting a saline solution through an I.V. tube, and once you have been "hydrated" enough, they begin the chemo-therapy treatment.

My treatment schedule was as follows:

First week, I had an overnight treatment, then wait three weeks. Come back, spend one week in the hospital and recieve treatment every night for that week, wait three more weeks and repeat for 9 months and hope it works. One of the more tragic side effects of chemotherapy is that you lose your hair, all of your hair, and your appetite, or you throw-up what you do eat (but only while recieving the treatment, after your done with the treatment for the day/week, I was able to go home and eat normally, as evidenced by the fact that I gained weight during the treatment process). Not all the time mind you, but you do throw-up your food while on therapy. Your hair is gone for quite a while after you finish therapy too. It takes a long while for it grow back, but grow back it does.

In my case, it worked. Not everyone's schedule is the same, but I am sure it is very similar. One case that will forever stand out in my mind was when a friend of mine, and a girl with whom I had a huge crush on, her name was Lisa Stanger and she had lukemia (lukemia has to do more with the bone marrow and blood, for more info on lukemia and other cancers visit The American Cancer Society and National Cancer Institute. She didn't make it. To this day I don't know why she had to die and I was chosen to go on living, I don't think I ever will. But all through her treatments and her remissions and all relapses, she was a beacon of strength for all that knew her and I would like to think that some of that rubbed off on me and helped me through my ordeal, through my fight with cancer, and for that I thank her.

When I was finished with my chemotherapy I was hairless, several pounds heavier, but all in all I was none the worse for wear. The cancer was in "remission" (a term doctors use to mean that they think they got all the cancer and/or it's not growing anymore) and I felt as if I had just defeated the most fearless and dis-honorable of enemies, and to tell the truth, I had. I walked away from cancer with not only a new lease on life, but a new view that had been hidden from me. One that said life was more precious then anything in the world. You might expect me to be against the death penalty, but in fact, I am not, nor will I ever be, but that is not what I wanted to tell you. What I wanted to share with you is my story, but this turned out to only be the beginning. See the "Story Continues".

If you ever get the courage to learn more, go to American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute If you want to talk, I can be reached at here.

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