Cancer can be a good excuse to start living. Jimmie Antley, a 68-year-old resident of Coushatta, La., celebrates survival of colorectal cancer as he advocates awareness of the disease that nearly took his life.
Six years ago Jimmie said he was living a normal, almost humdrum life, a manager at U Auto Pull-It Auto Parts and working hard to survive. He was rarely sick, but his stomach sometimes bothered him and he thought nothing of it. In snapshots with friends and family, he noticed he often was frowning but he had no idea why. Jimmie knew he did not feel his best, but he felt like he should get a grip on things and not whine about his mood.
His positive attitude would soon count when Jimmie learned he had a real problem. One November evening while eating Mexican food, Jimmie’s stomach became upset. When Jimmie made it home, he went to the restroom and blood began to pour out. Jimmie frequently enjoyed Mexican foods, so this blood could not be due to the dinner he just ate. He immediately went to the Emergency Room in Coushatta and they transferred Jimmie to a Shreveport community hospital that night.
The next day a colonoscopy found a large mass three and a half inches in diameter. During his two-night stay in the hospital, Jimmie was diagnosed with an advanced stage IV colon cancer. A doctor told Jimmie nothing could be done and he had only a few months to live. Despite his disappointment, Jimmie says he could only grin.
“You have to handle fear or fear will handle you,” Jimmie says of his personal philosophy.
Jimmie went home to Coushatta Thanksgiving Day and was at LSU Health Shreveport to see specialists within a week. Jimmie was not scared when he was moved to treatment at Feist-Weiller Cancer Center. His treatment team noticed a spark in Jimmie that helped him beat more bad news. The cancer had spread from his colon to his liver. Despite lesions on his liver, doctors say it is functioning well.
At one time Jimmie was taking three different chemotherapy treatments that made him very sick. He actually gained weight when most patients lose an unhealthy amount of weight. Jimmie has gone through outpatient chemo for more than six years, but he has never claimed the cancer. “I refuse to take ownership of this cancer. The docs tell me I have cancer, but it’s not MY cancer.”
He compared the colon cancer to a UPS delivery. Just because someone sends a delivery, in this case colon cancer, Jimmie does not feel obligated to accept and sign for the delivery. Instead, Jimmie has come to appreciate the complexity of his human body and the way every part works together. Jimmie attributes his strength to a strong faith. “I know that my body is fearfully and wonderfully made, according to scripture.” [Psalm 139:14]
Cheryl Duncan is the physician assistant who treats Jimmie when he is at Feist-Weiller Cancer Center. “When I met Jimmie a few years ago, I liked his attitude about cancer and I asked him to join the support group. I knew he’d be a good role model for the other patients,” Cheryl said. “I look forward to each visit with him, as he lifts me up, too.”
Jimmie was reluctant to go to a support group at first because he thought it might be a bunch of people sitting around feeling sad and having a pity party, and he wanted no part of that. Ron Nierman, one of the support group leaders for Feist-Weiller's cancer and sickle cell patients, said that Jimmie admits it was nothing like he imagined and he has become one of the group's greatest advocates.
“Jimmie's positive attitude, his vibrant energy and his steadfast faith continue to be an inspiration to the other group members. Wherever Jimmie goes, whoever Jimmie meets, he affects other peoples' lives," which Nierman added is “Totally awesome.”
Jimmie understands he was blessed to beat the odds of an early death because his body has overcome the colon cancer for more than six years. He said “God got me through the sickness,” and, he vows, “I’m gonna be on top when I get through this thing." His advice? "Don’t dwell on the problem. Dwell on the solution.”
For more information, please contact Ron Nierman, MA, LPC, CGP at (318) 470-6180.