Phil’s Story

June 4, 2013 6:58 am

I’ve known Phil for a long time now, but never much more than the friendly hello in the building I used to live in. A few months ago he wrote me an email asking if I would take his portrait for a project he’s working on. He said it would be of him shirtless showing the hole in his neck and the feeding tube that goes into his stomach. It was less than two weeks later we were in a studio shooting. Last week I asked him to send me a few sentences about his story so I could write a caption. He instead wrote the caption himself:

This is a picture of me in April of 2013. Ten years ago, while living in Vermont, I was diagnosed with stage four tonsillar cancer. I had smoked and abused myself pretty heavily during my youth. I woke up one morning and my neck was asymmetrical. After a needle aspiration was done I was told I didn't have cancer, but during surgery to remove the growth they found it was cancerous. I underwent radiation, chemotherapy and had my first stint with a feeding tube. I was given a fifty percent chance of survival. It was during this time that the proof of God's existence was given to me. You don't have to believe - it's okay - often these messages are very personal. I had developed a blood clot in my left arm from some hastily administered chemo. I was in the hospital during my recovery after developing a high fever when I was wheeled down to the place where they do sonograms. While sitting in a wheelchair, cold and hopeless I asked God, "Please, give me a sign that I can do this, after all I have two little kids, girls 8 and 4." Fifteen seconds! Not fifteen seconds later I hear a commotion in the corridors adjacent to where I am sitting. I thought: "Who would be so inconsiderate to be disruptive in this place?" Around the bend came two nurses flanking a child of maybe six with a chemo induced bald head, holding hands, whooping it up and laughing. If this beautiful courageous child dealt this lousy hand and these two beautiful care-givers who face death in the most vulnerable people, day in and day out- can laugh and frolic at this time in this place...then God, I can do it too. Thank You God for the message and the quick turn around! Three years later, I am chronically hoarse, and the same doctor who saved me from undergoing life-altering surgery in Vermont, missed diagnosing a second primary tumor on my larynx for eleven months. I was operated on by a very gifted, great guy named Dr. Peak Woo and given what's known as a Pearson Sub-total laryngectomy, and, by God's grace, here I stand.

1 Comment

  • LeAnn Lisana says:

    powerful stuff. you are right, Phil – we all get our own messages if we are open to them. keep pulling all of the good stuff into your heart – the smiles, the hugs, the sweet breezes, the laughter of children. keep on keepin’ on.

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