Appreciating Life by Louis Hunter
It was a bad year in 2007, but I got through it and had a great celebration on my 45th birthday, January 7, 2008," explained Louis.
Louis has always been a big, strong, healthy guy, but when he started having a sore throat that didn’t go away, he went to the doctor. Many rounds of antibiotics didn’t change the fact that his voice was becoming hoarse and his breathing was getting more difficult. It took five months to finally be diagnosed with throat cancer.
Louis had a history of cancer in his family and he has seen many people pass away with cancer in his 18 years of working at Forest Lawn, but when he heard he had cancer it really "hit-home." Louis shared that, "I never really thought I would have cancer—I’m a worry free kind of guy, nothing ever bothers me, but I soon felt like I was in prison, not being able to do what I wanted to do. But I had lots of support and was able to fight the fight."
Many tests, a biopsy, physician visits and the insertion of a stomach tube started Louis’ cancer journey. Dr. Chanduri began him on chemotherapy and Dr. Rao started his radiation treatments. He couldn’t hold down anything in his stomach and swallowing felt like "glass" going down his throat.
"Everyone at the Center was so genuinely concerned about me, and their positive attitude of ‘keep on going, you will get through this’ really made a difference for me. Betty (front desk), Marilyn (radiation reception), Steve (social worker), Doctors Rao, Gorty and Chanduri, and Irma the nurse all took care of me. They, along with the love of my kids (Destinee and Brianne and Shea), family (Pat, David and Vicki), fiancée (Tammora), friends (Vincent and Ed) and co-workers really helped me get through all of this. I also got a lot of support from the other patients at the Center—I thought, ‘if they could do it—so can I’—I’m half their age! I never really understood what some people go through on a daily basis just to survive," said Louis. Fevers, hospitalizations, weight loss, neuropathy and fatigue really got him down, but he never stopped fighting.
"I had to keep eating, even when I didn’t feel like it because I didn’t want to ‘waste-away’—I’ve always been thin, so I worked really hard at keeping the weight on," explained Louis. Some of his taste buds are still not working, so food doesn’t taste as good before the cancer. He always enjoyed going out to eat and savoring his Mother’s good cooking.
But right now he said, "I remember what it used to taste like and I enjoy the company I am with, so life is good. My fiancée, daughters (19,
16 and 8 years old), other family members, and my friends make my life wonderful, I can live with not tasting everything right now."
Louis would like to tell all those newly diagnosed to "stay positive, find out all your options and let people help and support you! I appreciate life so much more now – I wasn’t ‘wide-open’ before and I took so many things for granted, like taking a shower (you can take one with a stomach tube in) or simply walking, as it can be too tiring during therapy."
"My supervisor at Forest Lawn, Suzie, encouraged me every step of the way—starting with seeing a throat specialist when this all started—to modifying my work load while I am regaining my strength back," shared Louis. "I’m so appreciative of everyone who helped me through this—everyone needs to appreciate life!"