Story of Norman Rape#039;s battle with cancer tells many things

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 3, 2004

The story of Norman Rape's battle with cancer could tell many things.

The story could begin with the doctor's words, "We were hoping that we wouldn't find anything."

It could tell of his wife's being overcome with emotion upon the realization that "my husband has cancer but the world is still turning."

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The story could relate the times when it took every ounce of strength Rape had to walk a few steps from his home or the time he was so weak the he fell to the floor taking his wife with him. The story could tell how his feet became covered with blisters and the flesh pulled away in chunks. Words could tell how Jo Rape watched her husband aged 30 years in 30 days. The story could tell how Rape stood at his back door with tears running down his face or how he broke down and cried as he looked death in the face.

Norman Rape's story could be told that way, but that's not the way it needs to be told.

Rape's story is one of strength, determination and faith in God and one of hope for tomorrow because the battle has been won.

Rape was diagnosed with colon cancer in January 2003 after mentioning a slight pain around his navel to his doctor during his annual checkup.

The tumor the size of a lemon was removed from the right side of his colon. Eighteen lymph nodes were removed at the same time and 11 of those were malignant.

Further tests revealed that the cancer had spread to his liver.

"The doctor told us that I had a stage four, highly aggressive tumor and that I needed to begin treatment as soon as possible," Rape said. "I thought he had given me a death sentence. I could see my dying."

Rape said he and his wife, Jo, talked about the "what ifs" on the way home, with neither willing or able to accept the seriousness of the situation.

Shortly after arriving home, Jo Rape had to go into town to make preparation for unexpected changes in the days ahead.

Alone at home, Rape turned to his faith in God and asked for his grace and his guidance in the days ahead.

Alone in the car, Jo Rape said the words out loud. "My husband has cancer. Norman had cancer and I'm riding through town."

Both husband and wife agree that was the darkest time. There would be other dark times, days and nights filled with sickness, pain, fatigue and anguish. But, after those days would be better days and good days and blessed days of good reports and days of hope and promise for the future.

"After I was told that I had the tumor on my liver, I broke down and cried," Rape said. "But, the next day, I was walking with Mickey (Dr. Mickey Dichiara) and I asked him how big is two centimeters - that was the size of the tumor. He told me about an inch and I started to think about the liver and its size and how it regenerates, I thought if they could shrink the tumor then they could just take it off. And, right then my whole attitude changed."

Rape was given a drug called Xeloda, a cancer-killing drug that directly attacks the tumor, and chemotherapy. The two together have been found to be very effective in fighting liver cancer.

The side effects were the horror story of Rape's battle with cancer, but the treatments were effective. The treatments revealed that the tumor was shrinking.

"Someone asked me how much it had shrunk and I told them I didn't ask and I didn't care," Rape said with a smile. "All that I cared was that it was shrinking."

In September 2003, Rape's doctors told him that the tumor was gone but they had found some spots on his lungs but they were shrinking. Because of those spots, Rape was kept on the medication. Rape took his last treatment in December. On Jan. 13, a CAT scan revealed that the cancer was completely gone. A repeat scan on March 9 gave Rape a clean bill and he was told to come back in 90 days.

Norman Rape knows that he is a blessed man.

Rape said his faith, the love support of his family, friends and a caring community helped him through some very difficult times. Prayer, medical know-how and modern medicine brought him to where he is today.

But, Rape also played a huge part the victory he has won. He was tough in the fight.

"I decided to go on living," he said. "Even when I was so weak that I thought I couldn't walk and would set the timer of the microwave to go off every two hours and I would get up and walk a little around the house.

He lifted a light weight to keep up his arm strength and found spiritual and emotional strength from those who cared for him.

"I was not going to just sit around the house and let it beat me," he said.

As he talked about his battle with cancer, Rape always used the possessive word, "we."

"Jo was in this right along with me," he said. "When I was up at night, so sick, she was right there with me. Cancer is not something you experience alone. I know how hard it must have been on Jo. We went through this together, every step of the way."

As an insurance representative, Rape said he has had opportunities to talk with people who have been through battles with cancer.

"I thought I understood their pain and suffering but I didn't, not until now," he said. "What I would like to say to people is that any time your body gives you a warning sign, see a doctor. If I had not seen the doctor when I did, I might not be here today. Early detection is the best protection. It's gives you a chance at beating this thing.

"I know how blessed we are," he said. "Early detection and treatments that the result of researched funded through fundraisers like Relay for Life - I just can't tell you how important they are."

The battle with cancer has taught Rape a greater appreciation of everything life has to offer.

"We often don't call on God unless we need him," he said. "We shouldn't wait until we're looking death in the face to reach out to Him. Every day I thank God for all the blessings in my life and that I have life."