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Cancer patient takes it one day at a time

Managing editor

“There’s always good that comes from bad.”

That’s Dick Maggard’s attitude since being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer nearly two years ago.

Since hearing the news that he had only six months to live and outliving that prognosis, the sexagenarian has maintained a positive attitude.

“This experience has made me a better person,” Maggard said. “I’m closer to God and I think I treat people better.”

It all began in September 2007, when Maggard was suffering from stomach problems. He went to a doctor, tests were run, and he was referred to a surgeon.

His gall bladder was removed at Newton Medical Center, but Maggard had complications. Surgeon Stephen Cranston noticed something unusual. Two days later, the doctor performed exploratory surgery and found pancreatic cancer.

Maggard began taking treatments. They continued for six months — a regimen of chemotherapy and pills that specifically attacked the cancer.

“As long as I was taking those pills, my blood counts went up, but as soon as I stopped, they went down,” he said. “So, I keep taking the pills.”

Maggard and his family contacted Cancer Treatment Center of America in Tulsa, and were referred to a facility in Zion, Ill.

Every three weeks, Maggard traveled to Zion. When winter arrived, Maggard asked if he could take treatments at Newton. Now he has had to travel to the Illinois facility only for every fourth treatment.

“At Zion, they treated me like an individual, not just a number,” Maggard said.

The facility treats the whole body, not just the cancer, he said. Psychiatrists, ministers, and nutritionists are available with oncologists to offer support, treatments, and guidance.

Maggard considers himself one of the lucky ones because he has not had many of the side effects associated with cancer treatment. He knows treatments other than medicine are helping him and his family.

“Prayers have done as much if not more than the medical treatments,” he said. “I can look around and find someone worse than me.”

Maggard said his life had changed tremendously.

“I am so grateful to my family and the Marion community for their support,” he said. “Only in Marion would you receive this kind of support.”

Maggard continues to receive cards of support — some from people who have experienced a similar situation with a family member.

“There are a lot of positive attitudes here in Marion,” he said. “It’s a good place to live.”

He will continue treatments indefinitely — maybe the rest of his life. His prognosis is not known because he already has outlasted the first timeframe of survival. Taking it one day at a time and doing whatever he needs to do, Maggard will try to survive. He knows he needs to be cancer-free for 10 years to be regarded as cured of the disease. And accomplishing the first step of being cancer-free has been a tough one.

After working as transportation/maintenance director of USD 408, Maggard retired last summer but continues to work part-time for the department. Some days he feels better than others but he sees each day as a blessing.

“Some of this might be my age,” Maggard said with a smile.

He has advice for others.

“If you feel something is wrong, don’t wait. Get it checked,” Maggard said. “So many cancers are treatable early on.”

He encourages mammograms, prostate exams, and colonoscopies.

Maggard and his wife, Carol, who is Marion County clerk and herself a cancer survivor, will participate June 19 and 20 in Marion County Relay for Life at Warrior Stadium, Marion.

“This fund-raiser is really important because if this would have happened to me five or six years earlier, I may not be here today,” Maggard said. “Funds pay for research which has helped me. They may not be able to cure me but at least my life is better because of it.”

Walkers and supporters will begin their relay at 7 p.m. June 19 at the Marion facility.

Cancer survivors will walk the first lap of the evening. Names of cancer victims and those who have died from cancer will be read at 10 p.m.

The best-decorated campsites will be judged by cancer survivors and recognized at 10 p.m.

At least one member from each relay team will be on the track at all times during the night until the event ends at 7 a.m. June 20.

For more information, contact Janet Herzet at (620) 382-382-3690 or janet.herzet@slhmarion.org.

Last modified June 11, 2009

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