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Beating Cancer Is A Team Effort

  • 01.23.2016

lung cancer diagnosisJohn Douglas finds comfort and healing at Sierra Nevada Cancer Center 

During a routine annual physical exam in 2007, law enforcement veteran John Douglas was told that he had a spot on his lung. After following up with a pulmonary specialist and getting his biopsy results back, he was diagnosed with lung cancer. “That is not something you’re prepared for,” said John, a non-smoker. “The days from that first x-ray until I met with Dr. Perez were the longest of my life. I felt like I was all alone.”

Thankfully, that lonely feeling was replaced with optimism during his first consultation at Sierra Nevada Cancer Center. “As a police officer for 31 years, I was trained to size people up quickly. In the first 20 minutes with Dr. Perez, I knew he cared about me. He said, “You’ve got cancer. It doesn’t have you.” I thought, ‘I’m going to be okay.’” Nine years have passed, but John still looks back on that first visit fondly. “During the entire consultation, Dr. Perez sat on the edge of his chair as if he was trying to calm our nerves. He was that engaged.” He added, “As I left the office that day, it was as if a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I knew I wasn’t doing this by myself.”

The team concept is something John said was ever-present each and every visit—and with three chemotherapy sessions a week for six months, he had plenty of counterpoints. “When I cleared the door, everyone was respectful and compassionate. I never felt like I was being shuffled along,” recalled John. “They told me they weren’t going to do anything to me until they explained exactly what they were doing, so we’re all in this together.”

John recounted a story that demonstrates how invested Dr. Perez and his staff are in their patients. “During treatment, I went on a motorcycle run, which my nurse knew about. Her boyfriend, whom I had never met, was going on the same run. Apparently, she described me to her boyfriend and he sought me out. We laughed and we cried together. For me, that solidified the personal touch that Dr. Perez and his staff bring to the table. To say it is one thing, but they live it.”

As for the perspective on life he’s gained since his stage IV lung cancer diagnosis and recovery, John said he enjoys being outdoors and traveling overseas more than ever before. “When I come in for my check-ups, Dr. Perez always asks, ‘Where are you traveling to this year?’ I’m sure he’s got countless patients, but I’ve never felt like I was one of a multitude. With him, it’s personal.”

Also personal is the decision John made to leave his port in even after he had finished treatment. “It’s mine,” he said. “It’s a constant reminder for me not to quit. Just don’t quit.”

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