Mark Chandler Beats Cancer

What He Learned

Samantha Valdez, Opinions Editor

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It all really started with nothing but a lump on his neck – no cough, no fatigue, no other symptoms at all.  Actually, Mark Chandler, Sahuaro Social Studies teacher, became more concerned at his mother’s funeral when everyone began commenting on the clearly visible size of the lump.  Chandler, a former Marine, already had an appointment at Tucson’s VA (Veteran’s Affairs) Hospital to get it examined. While there, the doctor immediately ordered a biopsy and the results came back positive for cancer – stage three. “At first I was shocked you know, when you hear the word cancer you think the worst. I lost my mom and sister to brain cancer and I was terrified.” The cancer began on Mr. Chandler’s tonsils and metastasized onto both neck lymph nodes.  The treatment would involve 35 rounds of radiation (Monday-Friday for seven weeks) and 7 rounds of chemo (every Friday).

Before starting treatment, Chandler admits to mentally preparing himself for the stress his body would take. He states, “You have to get yourself mentally right to undergo the rigors of chemo and radiation. With cancer you have to stay positive and conserve your energy as much as possible.” The doctors had warned him that the last two weeks and the two weeks after would be the worst – he possibly would not have been able to handle teaching classes.  Other side effects could be not being able to swallow liquids or food, so they placed a feeding tube in his stomach so that his body could still get nutrients in case he couldn’t eat.  As a true Marine, Chandler continued to teach throughout his treatments and even though he lost 25 lbs, he managed to still eat soup twice a day and drink water to minimize the side effects.  He recalls, “I felt sick all the time for those 7 weeks straight, and I just had to conserve my energy. I came to school, went home, ate, and went to bed.” Chandler was aware that the type of cancer he had, had a very high success rate, so it helped him calm down after his initial shock. However after being diagnosed he underwent hard times, “You think about it all day long so no matter what you’re doing, it creeps into everything you do. I learned you can’t let it control your actions and your thoughts, even though it’ll be there all the time.”

Chandler received his chemotherapy treatments at the VA hospital and radiation at the U of A. Both hospitals provided an excellent experience for him. Now that Mr. Chandler is a survivor, the biggest advice he could give someone is “BE POSITIVE.” When asked what he would do differently if he was diagnosed a second time he replied, “I would do exactly the same thing.” Chandler is grateful for the help he received, “I had considerable support with Ms. Lange. She made sure I ate when I more than likely would not have, and that I took honey multiple times a day to soothe my throat (which made me gag every time!). Also, she gave me considerable moral support and helped keep me positive. As well, my daughter would drive me to radiation treatments when I felt the worst at the beginning of each week. It definitely helped get me through the worst of the treatments.”

Mr. Chandler also said this, which he directed with anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation: “The biggest thing I can tell you is stay positive, listen and do everything your doctors tell you, and even though it’s hard, always know it could be worse.” Cancer has affected the outlook Mr. Chandler has on life, “I can’t live recklessly, but I can do things that will fulfill my life and make me happy. Now that I’m cancer free, I’m more aware of what I eat, I’m exercising more than I ever have, and I feel good.” Just one week after his treatments ended, Chandler was hiking Sabino Canyon and back at the gym.  Now he is training for a triathlon, running, biking, swimming, and lifting weights just about every day.

No matter how hard it will get, never forget the most important thing, “BE POSITIVE.”

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