On track and #039;racing for a cure#039;

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 10, 2003

Just over a year ago, Larry Hicks was sitting on his porch feeling sorry for himself.

He was recovering from his second bout with cancer and found himself in a state of depression.

"I was dwelling on what I couldn't do and in my despair I asked God if there was more to life than what I was experiencing, to show it to me," Hicks said.

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A few days later, a plane went down in the lake behind Hicks' home in the Palos Verde Estates. Instinctively, the retired Marine went to the pilot's rescue. He pulled him for submerged plane, revived him and kept him afloat until rescue units arrived.

"I knew then that God had answered my question," Hicks said. "I realized that there were things that I could no longer do, but the things that I could do could make a difference. I was not going back to feeling sorry for myself and I stopped asking questions."

So, when Hicks was asked to be on the Pike County American Cancer Society board of directors, he was honored.

He was honored even more when he was asked to be the honorary chairman of the 2003 Relay for Life event.

"If there is anything that I can say or do that could help someone who is fighting a battle with cancer, I want to do it," he said. "If there are words of encouragement that I can give to caregivers, I want to do it. If there is anything I can do to help raise money for the American Cancer Society, I want to do it. The Lord has let me survive two battles with cancer and I'm not going to let the time he has given me be wasted."

Hicks' battle with the devastating disease began in 1988 when he was diagnosed with lymphoma. The surgery was deemed a success, but less than a year later, the cancer was back.

All of the lymph nodes on the left side of Hicks torso had to be removed and he underwent six months of chemotherapy.

"In 1989, going through chemo was really bad and I went through some really tough times," he said. "I would be so sick that I would literally pass out. The last thing I would see before I passed out would be my wife Donna's face and the first thing I would see when I came back to would be her face.

"I know what that meant to me. I can't tell you how important a caregiver is - emotionally

— to a cancer patient."

Hicks gives credit to his caregivers - his wife and mother and dad - for supporting him emotionally during his illness and recovery.

"I always believed that I was going to beat this thing and they began to believe it, too," he said. "Attitude plays a big part in the recovery period. That's the really though time. I felt so bad and was so weak that it would have been easy to give up, but I wasn't ready to give up. My family didn't give up either."

Hicks made a full recovery from his battle with lymphoma and he put the disease behind him.

Then some 12 years later, Hicks was having dinner at The Pines in Troy with his wife and a couple of friends. As he was getting up to leave, he fell to his knees.

"I knew something was terribly wrong," he said.

The diagnosis of head and throat cancer would have sent most people reeling, but Hicks was no stranger to the disease.

"I said, "Tell me what we have to do to fix this," Hicks said. "The doctor didn't paint a good picture for me. I told him I was going to beat this thing again so, if he didn't get a better attitude, I was going to get another doctor."

Hicks' battle against neck and throat cancer wasn't an easy one, but he never let himself think that he wouldn't make it.

"The advances that had been made in medications reduced the nausea from chemotherapy," he said. "The nausea wasn't nearly as bad as in 1988-89 and that made a big difference. I still went through some really tough times and my family and friends stood by me and supported me. They gave me strength when I didn't have any of my own. Caregivers are remarkable people. They have a tough time, too. They suffer right along with you. Someone said that an individual doesn't have cancer - a family does and that's so true."

For Hicks' the slow recovery time was hard because he wanted to get better fast and get back to work - to a normal life.

"It takes time to recover from cancer treatment and you can't rush it," he said. "I had to learn the hard way."

With his kind of cancer, Hicks said that many people don't make it.

"Seventy percent don't make it two years and 85 percent don't make it five years," he said. "But, I'm not about to give up. I'm not as big as I was; I'm not as muscular as I was or as strong and the odds are against me. But, I'm still here because of research. A lot of people are in the same situation. That's why we are 'Racing for a Cure' for cancer. The sooner we find the cure the more lives that will be saved. That's why I support Relay for Life - because we're all in the race together and one day, we will win."