Tim Cox was familiar with the Wellmont Cancer Institute – he’d been photographing its physicians, team members and patients for years. But nothing could have prepared him for the news he received last summer, or for the journey he faced.
On a Friday afternoon, I got a phone call. My wife, Angel, answered, and through the receiver I could hear the words: cancer cells.
Right away, the words were like a big neon sign. But I was also about to head out the door – I was the No. 1 photographer for that weekend’s Rhythm & Roots festival – so I said to my wife, “We’re not going to pay attention to this right now. Whatever happens will happen.”
Over that weekend, I had three days to do nothing except approach my thought process. That’s when I decided we were going to beat this thing, and that’s been my attitude ever since.
At the Southwest Virginia Cancer Center, my doctors and whole team have been amazing. I’d photographed a lot of them before – including Dr. Scott Coen, who I’d shot with patients and doing brachytherapy treatments for cancer.
So, when I came to the center and Dr. Coen walked through the door at the start of my treatment, it was a huge blessing. And the flashing CANCER sign got dimmer.
It’s amazing to know we have these cancer facilities right in our backyard. When I was first diagnosed, someone suggested I go somewhere else, but I said no way. I wanted to have my treatment at home, where I was minutes away from the cancer center and surrounded by friends, family and caretakers for support.
Angel and I chose to make this thing a public journey. In small towns, when there’s something wrong, everyone knows. We were very prayerful about whether to be public or private – I did not want people to see me as dying. I only wanted the facts out there.
So, from Day One, I shared my Journey To Kick Cancer photos on my Facebook pages. People already followed me for my photography, and when I started posting pictures of my cancer treatment and the cancer center, they really took to the subject – almost everyone has been affected by cancer at some point in their lives, so they could all relate to my pictures.
Being so public about my journey has been remarkable. The Wise County Chamber of Commerce recognized me as a Citizen of the Year for 2016, and I was honored to receive my award alongside Bob Isaac, who volunteers at the cancer center and earned the President’s Award.
This cancer journey has been one of the better things that’s happened in my life, as far as influencing people. One of the things I’ve been able to show people through social media is it takes a positive attitude to get through all the steps, procedures and treatment.
I’ll never forget, the day I went in for my first treatment. There was a man who was also starting his treatment that day – but he was already planning his funeral. By the time we both finished our treatments, though, his attitude had improved, he was bringing gifts to the cancer center staff, and he was looking forward to his life.
There are so many people fighting this, facing this, who are less fortunate than me. The support system I had was awesome. The physicians and team there – even the ones who weren’t treating me – would come up to me to say hi and see how I was doing. They really cared about ME. I’ll never forget Dr. Coen’s birthday, because the team invited me to his party and gave him one of my photographs as a gift.
I had 40 treatments, and I have six more months of treatment to go. My first 25 treatments were localized, and the last ones are really concentrated – it’s called a blast.
I have six more months, and we’ll be checking all along. I know we’re in a positive direction to beat this thing.
Did a compassionate smile lift your spirits? Or did a world-class team of physicians save your life? Whether you were born here, healed here or both,
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