Tom Townsend may not make it to Relay for Life this year.
He certainly wonâ€™t have the strength to walk the Survivorsâ€™ Lap.
The three-time cancer survivor hopes to be at the track but will have to await the doctorâ€™s approval before he knows for sure.
Together, Tom and his wife, Linda, have beaten cancer four times and participated in the Relay for years.
â€œIâ€™ve enjoyed being a part of that even when I didnâ€™t have cancer,â€ he said.
Linda, 57, was diagnosed with mantle cell lymphoma in 1994. Her surgery was successful. She has been cancer free for about 10 years.
Tom, 60, was first diagnosed with colon cancer in 1998. Luckily his diagnoses came early. The cancer was removed, and he had a colon resection.
Five years later, Tom had a biopsy due to a polyp on his throat. The biopsy led doctors to Tomâ€™s lung cancer.
â€œThat was really a shock,â€ said Linda. â€œAfter five years we thought he was fine. We thought if anyoneâ€™s came back it would be mine.â€
The couple fought the battle together. Tom had 37 radiation treatments and seven chemotherapy sessions. He considers the treatments the harshest to handle during that bought with cancer. With each treatment his body felt battered.
â€œItâ€™s like having three weeks of the flu,â€ he said.
Tom beat the cancer for a second time, but lost the voice he was used to in the process. He now has a light-toned, raspy voice because of damage to his vocal chords. He plans to have the damage repaired in the future.
Each recurrence of cancer is tough, Linda admits. But she said they find strength with each battle.
â€œAnytime we go through these things we just get stronger in our faith,â€ she said. â€œYou come out a better person than when you came in.â€
Tom â€œwent inâ€ again when he was diagnosed with cancerous brain tumors.
Doctors acted fast.
Tom joined a national study of people treated with a gamma radiation knife: a technique that uses directed radiation to kill tumors.
The procedure has reduced the tumors in size, and scans have shown that one appears to be dead. Though he seems to be winning the battle, Tom will remain a part of the national study for five years â€” monitoring the lasting affects of the specialized radiation treatment.
Tomâ€™s eyes light up when he speaks of the high tech procedures. He remembers preparing for the surgery â€” walking down the hallways of the hospital, toolbox in hand with a metal halo bolted to his head.
Tom talked about Carolina Panthers sharing the same infusion room as him during chemotherapy sessions. He hailed the ability of his physicians.
â€œItâ€™s really something. God blessed us with doctors to handle this stuff. Itâ€™s truly amazing.â€
Linda and Tom attributed their strength to God, family and friends. They said the support from their family and fellow church members at Holy Cross Lutheran has been tremendous.
The couple has walked on the churchâ€™s team at Relay in the past. This year they wonâ€™t walk. But they treasure their past experiences at the event and hope to attend this year.
â€œWhen you go to the Relay and walk the Survivorsâ€™ Lap, it really helps to know this many people survive cancer,â€ said Linda. â€œItâ€™s really a boost.â€
Tom Townsend is one of three honorary chairs for this yearâ€™s Relay for Life.by Diane Turbyfill