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Diagnosed with esophageal cancer in 1999, Joe D has been a CHN Support Volunteer since 2009. For him, it’s been a chance to help patients in a similar situation. “Everyone you speak to is different – some people are scared to death, some are ready to charge through.” No matter the patient, “The most important thing that happens in most conversations is people ask how long I’ve been out. When I say 16 years, their hope is almost palpable.”

He offers some simple, but vital advice: “You’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do. You’re going through this thing – it’s not easy, but you have to push through it. The fact that they’re talking to me means that people get through this.”

Blessed with a strong support system during his fight, Joe encourages patients he’s matched with to make use of their own network of loved ones. “I couldn’t have gotten through it without my wife. My support was excellent – with my brothers, friends and others chipping in to take me to treatment, sit by my side. I had a couple of friends who were at my house practically every night.” At the same time, he reminds patients to remember their loved ones “are going through something too. It’s not what you’re going through, but everyone is suffering.”

Joe believes patients should call CHN for two reasons.

First, “It’s important to know that people get through it and come out on the other side. I was told I had a one in five chance of surviving two years.” At the time, his sons were young children – today, 16 years later, he’s seen all three married and is a proud grandfather of five.

Secondly, matches “get the benefit of what it’s like to go through the whole process. It’s valuable to know how things are going to happen.  If people know ahead of time, it can help them deal with it.”

“Doctors can only go so far – they’ll feed you the information that’s needed. Sometimes, it’s focused on specific aspects of your treatment and piecemeal – it doesn’t give you the overall picture of what’s going to happen. Cancer Hope Network has volunteers who have gone through the gauntlet and we’re able to talk to people on the same level and go through what’s about to happen to them.”

Diagnosed with esophageal cancer? Caring for a loved one in the fight? Call 877-HOPENET to speak to Joe or another Support Volunteer who has been in a similar situation.

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