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Rance - Head & Neck Cancer

Rance - Head & Neck Cancer

It's been almost exactly three years since Rance finished proton therapy for adenocarcinoma. He's really lived it up since then. Find out about Rance's travels around the world!

Remind us why you had proton therapy.

The short answer is that I had Stage III Paranasal Papillary Adenocarcinoma. The tumor started in the sinus above my left eye. By the time we discovered it, the tumor had entirely filled my left sinuses. Proton therapy minimized the side effects on my vision in my left eye, even with the close proximity to the optic nerves. The brain damage couldn’t be helped - it may have been a pre-existing condition!

How’s life been treating you since your treatment?

Life has been a lot of fun. We have three teenagers, who keep us busy. Thinking about them got me through treatment. I wanted to be there for them. Since treatment, I've set aside more time to volunteer at school, and try to make the most of our time together. I want be there for my kids' life events. In fact, this month, my oldest daughter, Emma, is graduating from high school in Kuwait and I will be there to watch her receive her diploma!

Camel rider in Kuwait.

Tell us more about your globe-trotting and what it means to you.

We have always enjoyed traveling. Now that we realize how quickly life can change, we try to take advantage of the time we've been given to see the world. We traded material things for flexible jobs that allow us to travel to as much of the world as we can. When I was first diagnosed, we were living in India. We now live in Kuwait.

Rance's daughter with a friend in India.

Since treatment we've traveled to Malaysia, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Netherlands, Egypt, Oman, Singapore, Jordan, Portugal, Spain, Sri Lanka, Bahrain, UAE, Croatia, Spain, Portugal, and Italy. This isn’t meant to be a brag list (though I realize it may sound like one), it is a list of places where we've met amazing, kind and warm people who have welcomed our family with their beautiful hospitality and traditions. The more people, places and cultures you meet, the more you realize how much humanity has in common. Travel gives you a new perspective. Greet people with a smile and try to learn a couple of phrases in their language. If you are comfortable with it, stay in local hotels and rub shoulders with as many locals as you can. You will get a much better sense of the locale. 

Rance and kids pose with a binturong in Singapore.

One goal of mine was to get scuba certified. I just recently completed training here in Kuwait. The Persian Gulf may not be a world destination for scuba, but it was a great place to get certified.  

Our next stop will be in Shenzhen, China, so wish me luck learning Mandarin!

How does it feel to tell your survivor story? 

It feels good to talk about it. I find that mentioning cancer can kill a conversation pretty quickly. I wish it wasn’t that way. It seems to give it more power than it should have. It happens to lots of people. I lost my father to cancer, but it didn’t define who he was. Some survivors aren’t ready to talk about it, but I feel like most are. It is, and always will be, part of their life. So just ask: “Do you want to talk about it?” Then listen!

In telling my story, I want people to know that there is life after cancer. It is a pivotal time, and it will always be a part of who you are, but you will move on and accomplish amazing things. Even on the hardest days of treatment, make short- and long-term goals to give you hope and perspective when you feel like you can't go on. We can’t change what is happening to us, but we can change how we respond to it. During a time of personal struggle, one of my good friends said: "Just smile!” 

If possible, it helps to have a mentor/hero. Mine was 11-year-old Hannah. Diagnosed with cancer a few months before I was, she helped me maintain perspective. She was an amazing example of how to fight the battle with dignity and grace.

Can you recommend some favorite travel destinations for other patients and graduates?

There are amazing places all over the world. Summertime in the San Juan Islands of Washington is still one of my favorite destinations, so take advantage of that if you can. If you haven’t been to Banff in the Canadian Rockies, what are you waiting for?

If you are seeking a peaceful place to recharge, then get an AirB&B in a rural part of the Netherlands and ride bikes around the country roads. If you like water, hit the Similan Islands off the coast of Thailand: jade-green water full of an amazing variety of fish. Portugal’s south coast during the off-season is also peaceful and beautiful. 

Rance's son in the Netherlands.

If you are a food person, as I am, you have to go to George Town, on Penang Island in Malaysia. Hoi An in Vietnam is not as bustling as the major cities and the food is amazing. Try to go during a lunar festival if you can.

Rance floating along in Hoi An, Vietnam.

For a sense of history, and to step back from the modern world, try Petra in Jordan and Angkor Watt in Cambodia. They are both a bit touristy, of course, but absolutely worth it. If you need to stay closer to home, I recommend Mesa Verde National Park in Southern Utah.