Lewis Evans, who's lived in Anson County with his wife Reba for 11 years and has worked with the Farm Bureau for 30 years, shared what he learned during his bout with esophageal cancer.
Evans proudly reported that he's been a cancer survivor for seven years. He told the audience of fellow survivors and their families and caregivers that he'd been asked in October to speak at the cancer survivors dinner but kept putting off making notes about the topic he'd speak on.
"As I thought more about it," he said, ripping up the notes he'd taken, "I realized I didn't need notes."
Evans went on to share that he was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in August of 2003— the day that changed his life. "Two days later," he added, "the Lord revealed to me, you're gonna be OK."
It was "an inconvenience," Evans said, but after that, he was sure he was going to survive.
Evans said through his experience with cancer, he'd learned that one needs five things to survive.
The first, he revealed, is "a strong belief in the love of the Lord." After many in the audience shouted "Amen!", Evans said, "I knew I'd get a resounding 'Amen!' on that one."
He admitted that many doctors don't believe that, but he remembered when his doctor told him he had a one in five chance of living longer than five years, he'd said, "I don't know who those other four people diagnosed with esophageal cancer are but I feel sorry for them. ... They're not gonna make it."
That's because Evans believed he would be the one in the five who would survive. And in the end, he did live. He has now reached seven years as a survivor.
The second thing a cancer patient needs for survival, he said, is strong support from friends and family. He talked about his wife, Reba, and how she'd had to give him shots in his stomach every day. "I think after a while, she began to enjoy it," he joked.
In addition, she drove him to Charlotte for his surgery at 4:30 in the morning. There, his oldest son, father (also a cancer survivor), and brothers and sisters were waiting for him. They stayed through the entire 12-hour surgery and were there in the days following for his recovery. Most of his family had driven in from northeastern North Carolina, driving all night just to be there for him.
His younger son, he revealed, was serving in Iraq and sending prayers for him.
The third tool for survival, Evans said, is a good team of doctors and nurses. "If I was smart enough to handpick my doctors and nurses, I couldn't have picked a better team," he said.
The fourth key to survival is early detection. "If you are a person at high risk, early detection is very important," he said.
HIs grandfather, father and eight of his grandfather's 13 children all had cancer, Evans said.
"You know your own body," he cautioned. "If something don't feel right, you think it'll be better tomorrow. Then if it isn't better, you ignore it. Then you kind of get used to it. But if you've got something that's not normal, see someone. Have a mammogram, ladies. Men— and women— have a colonoscopy. There are a lot of things you can do to create early detection."
The fifth and final key to cancer survival, Evans said, is what he refers to as PMA— positive mental attitude. "My daddy always told me, 'if you can't say anything positive, don't say anything at all.'"
He pointed to cancer survivor and world-renowned bicyclist Lance Armstrong as a source of inspiration. "A positive attitude will get you where you've got to go," he said.
He told the story of when he told his doctor that he would be the one in five to survive esophageal cancer. His doctor told him, "That attitude won't save you and it won't heal you, but it'll carry you a long way."
Evans ended his talk by recalling a sermon he once heard, about using the talents God gave us all. He said he didn't realize it at first but his talent is for counseling others. After that sermon served as an epiphany, Evans said he didn't have to go looking for people to help through tough times, like a cancer diagnosis— they would come to him.
"I didn't go searching for people," he said. "They may have been diagnosed the day before and our paths cross. It's been one of the most rewarding things I've ever done."
The survivors dinner is held in conjunction with the Relay for Life, which is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. Friday, May 21, at Anson High School's athletic field. The Relay will start out with the Survivors Lap, followed by the caregivers joining in with survivors, and then the teams.