Surprise, devastation and worry. These are all emotions that can touch us when we hear a cancer diagnosis. And yet, the process of regaining health can bring about overwhelming feelings of empowerment, gratitude and thankfulness.
This week, WellCommunityChicago.org will bring you the first-hand stories of three local survivors who have felt this wide range of emotions while being treated in Swedish Covenant Hospital’s Cancer Center.
Noah Starr, 32
Testicular cancer survivor
Diagnosed September 30, 2007
This Jefferson Park resident was 28 years old when he was diagnosed with testicular cancer. Despite the possibility of becoming infertile, Noah and his new wife held onto hope. In May 2011, they celebrated 3 ½ years of Noah being cancer-free, and their daughter Hazel’s second birthday.
“When Dr. Daniel Merrick, my urologist, told me I had testicular cancer, I was absolutely scared. The fear was so overwhelming that it wasn’t even tangible in any way. I didn’t know what I should do, what I should feel or what direction I was supposed to go in. I was totally unprepared for a diagnosis like that at the age of 28.
On top of the cancer, they told me that the surgery and the radiation treatment could affect my fertility. I had just gotten married, so it was pretty unsettling to face the possibility of not having a family, right as I was planning to start.
As I prepared for treatment, I got overwhelmed every once in a while, but I didn’t let it govern my life.”
“I had surgery right away to remove the cancer and found out that day that I was cleared of any trace of the disease. I was again overwhelmed, but also positive and grateful. Because the surgery was successful, they gave me the lowest number of doses of radiation treatment to minimize any negative effects on my fertility. I had radiation throughout December, ending the day after Christmas. I was cancer-free and finished with treatments, so for my family and me, it was a super happy occasion. I was diagnosed and cleared within a month, so it was very surreal.
About a year after I was diagnosed, I was due to get a test to ensure I was still fertile, but before I even went for the test, we found out we were expecting.
My wife and I decided to have our baby at Swedish Covenant Hospital with the Nurse-Midwifery Group, in large part because of the excellent care I received in the Cancer Center. The people I dealt with were amazing, so we knew the quality of care would be great.”
Just over four years have passed since his initial diagnosis, and Noah remains cancer-free. Hazel is happy to be toddling around their Jefferson Park home.
“I wanted to be a father for a long time, and I am so grateful to have the opportunity. I realize now that life is a lot shorter than you think, so I decided to be a stay-at-home dad and spend more time with my daughter.”
Photo caption: Noah Starr and his daughter Hazel (at 6 months) play in their former home in Logan Square.