Heartbeat : Cancer Survivor Day

LUBBOCK, TX - Sunday, June 4, was National Cancer Survivors Day. It's a day to not only celebrate those who have survived cancer, but those who are still fighting, and those who are dealing with a diagnosis for either themselves or a loved one.

Chris Dougherty is currently the chief culture and experience officer for Covenant Health. He shared his story with cancer.

It began five years ago, when he said the birthmark on his right cheek began changing. "They did a biopsy. Didn't think it was going to be much, turns out it was melanoma," he said.

Around that same time, Dougherty began working at Covenant Children's. He had the spot on his cheek removed and was then put on a surveillance program for stage one melanoma.

"About a year later, I woke up and was shaving, and there was two golf ball sized lumps in my neck," he said. 

He had those tumors removed and was officially considered a stage two cancer patient at that point.

From there, he did radiation and then was put on a weekly injection program that was supposed to last two years.

"Just before that two year mark, maybe three months before that two year mark, all of the sudden, my tumor markers were elevating, they had been elevating, but they had elevated to a point where Dr. Close & Leah [Bell, a registered nurse at Joe Arrington Cancer Center] and the team were a little bit concerned about it," he said.

Dougherty said they found a spot on his lung, meaning the cancer had spread. He the had an MRI done to check his brain. Dougherty remembers the day Dr. Close stopped by his office to tell him the results of the MRI.

"What strikes me the most how devastating it was for me to hear that now there are multiple tumors on my brain as well, was to watch how difficult it was for Dr. Close to say it to me," he said. "And I guess, even being in the health care world, I didn't have a full appreciation of how hard the jobs are for those that care for those with chronic illnesses."

He's now been through surgery, chemotherapy, and immunotherapy.

"I learned you fight it on all fronts, it attacks all aspects of your life, obviously physically, it goes right after you, didn't realize it would go after you emotionally, spiritually, you name it," Doughery said.

"Immediately, from the get go, when I see a new patient, for the first time, I try to set them at ease, and make them feel like they're more than just a patient," registered nurse Leah Bell said. "They're a person, who doesn't want to be here, we wish they weren't here, but we're going to walk this journey with them together."

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