05/13/05 — Survivors celebrate cancer victories

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Survivors celebrate cancer victories

By Becky Barclay
Published in News on May 13, 2005 2:31 PM

Ed Ezzell had a good life. After retiring from teaching math for 30 years, he had turned his golf hobby into a new career.

But his easy-going attitude changed in May 2003 when doctors discovered a lump on his neck, which was diagnosed as cancerous.

Ezzell described his response and his battle with disease at the annual Cancer Survivors' Banquet Thursday at First Pentecostal Holiness Church.

The event served as a warmup for the annual Relay for Life, which begins today at 6 p.m. at Wayne Community College and lasts through noon Saturday.

Ezzell said after the initial discovery, doctors found several more cancerous lumps on his body. What was most frightening, he said, was that the doctors could not determine what was causing the cancers to appear.

When the initial call came from the doctor's office, he couldn't even speak and had to hand the telephone to his wife, Ezzell said.

"I had never been sick," he said. "I didn't feel sick then. I just never expected this kind of news. That really shocked me. I really didn't know what to do at that time."

Doctors at Southeastern Medical Oncology Center decided the best course of treatment would be to remove as much of the cancer as possible. They also thought his tonsils might have something to do with the cancerous lump and decided to take them out, too.

Then, the oncologists would use chemotherapy on the three remaining lumps. But Ezzell was told that there was really no specific chemotherapy for his type of cancer.

"I realized that there might not be a cure for me," he said.

Dr. Ernest Marshall at SMOC told Ezzell that considering how advanced his cancer was, he probably only had six months to a year to live.

Ezzell said several important things happened to him at this time. The first was a letter he received from the choir director at New Hope Friends Church, which made him realize he couldn't face his cancer alone. He needed help.

The second thing was when a young man visited him at Lane Tree Golf Club and asked if he could pray for him. A week later, the same young man went back to Lane Tree and asked Ezzell how he stood with God. Ezzell told him that it was not very good. Right then and there, he said, the young man helped him give his life over to God.

"I had wanted for two weeks for someone to ask me to do this," said Ezzell. "When this young man did that, I temporarily forgot all about my cancer because if I died, I knew I was going to go to heaven. Now I had all the help I needed to face my sickness."

Ezzell had the surgery June 25. The doctor made an L-shaped cut in his neck and removed as much of the lump as possible.

Then on July 30, he had a portacath put in and began chemotherapy. He took two different drugs.

He said some important things happened during chemotherapy. One was that he was put on prayer lists all over Goldsboro and even in other states.

The second was meeting a woman with cancer whom he described as "high on life." Ezzell said although she eventually became confined to a wheelchair and then to bed and then died, "she taught me to say 'why not me' instead of 'why me'. Why not me instead of my daughters or my sisters or anyone else in my family?"

Another thing that happened during his chemotherapy was that one of his daughters became very upset with her father constantly having "pity parties" for himself. One day, he said, she began crying and told him: "You're not dead yet. You've got to live until you die."

"I didn't want my daughter to cry over my sickness anymore," Ezzell said. So he changed his attitude.

Five months after chemotherapy, scans showed the cancerous lumps were shrinking. This enabled Ezzell to enjoy the Christmas he had thought he would not live to see.

But more scans last October showed that a couple of the lumps had grown back and Ezzell underwent three more months of chemotherapy.

Recent scans detected a new lump deep under his armpit, which might require more surgery.

But Ezzell hopes to be OK by September because that's when one of his daughters is expecting his first grandchild. "I don't know the outcome of my sickness," he said, "but I know I'm OK. I live each day the best that I can and hope for a tomorrow."

Also during the banquet the oldest and youngest cancer survivors were recognized. Sara Douglas, 85, has survived the disease for 51 years, and 11-year-old Tiffany Hill has survived for five years.

Seven members of the Potter's Clay praise and worship team also performed several musical numbers at the banquet.

Master of ceremonies Jimmie Ford, a cancer survivor himself, told those attending that they'd been given a second chance at life. "No one else has walked in the shoes like you've walked in," he said.