During “No Shave November” people are encouraged to ditch their razors in order to spark a conversation about cancer. The hope is that conversation will lead to donations in order to support services that help patients diagnosed with cancer. Two Magic Valley men are sharing their personal stories in order to explain how support services made a difference during treatment.
Words to Live by from a Street Pastor Living with Cancer
Moving to Idaho wasn’t necessarily his plan, but it’s how the stars aligned.
Keith Stevens now calls Buhl “home.” Relocating came after lots of traveling back and forth from Nevada; Stevens has bone marrow cancer and makes regular visits to St. Luke’s Mountain States Tumor Institute (MSTI) in Twin Falls.
“There is no cure for what I have,” he said. “I am classified as terminally ill.”
It’s a daunting diagnosis, but most people would never know he is ill. Stevens is a street pastor, and rather than focusing on himself, he spends his time helping others. It’s what he intends to do until his health does not allow for it.
You’ll find Stevens in the community, handing out small purple rocks and Bible passages. The rocks, Stevens said, have gone all over the United States.
“I gave a few out today,” he said. “When I give them out, I pray with (the recipients) and tell them everything will be OK.
“People say, ‘You made my day,’” Stevens said. “I say to people, ‘I’ve been there exactly where you are at today. You are going to be OK, one way or another.’”
Three and a half years ago, Stevens wasn’t able to pray – let alone walk.
“I had radiation on the brain for a tumor and also in the spine,” he said. “They found cancer in the number three disc in my spine and I needed emergency surgery.
“They had to put two plates in there to hold me together. I spent a month in the hospital after I went to rehabilitation,” Stevens said. “I had to learn how to walk again, which was a struggle. I’ve come a long ways.”
While there is no cure for Stevens’ disease, there are ways to manage the symptoms. Stevens’ doctors have used several different types of treatments, including a stem cell transplantation, replacing unhealthy blood-forming cells with healthy cells.
Stevens recalled being “so close to death” before the transplant that his family came to make funeral arrangements. He went to St. Luke’s in Boise for the transplant and stayed for a month. He received assistance from St. Luke’s to help pay for his stay.
The costs add up when you’re sick, Stevens observed.
“That little extra help really helps people out,” he said.
As a MSTI patient over the past several years, Stevens has shared a journey with many people.
“You see and hear a lot sitting in those chairs,” he said. “I see people that need help all of the time.”
He’s been in remission now for more than two years and is putting his perspective to work, advocating for others to donate to the Cancer Patient Emergency Fund through the St. Luke’s Magic Valley Health Foundation.
“I hear people saying that they don’t have the proper funds,” Stevens said. “People don’t realize that it’s not just poor people with cancer. It affects everybody.”
Foundation Support Helps Patient Diagnosed with Cancer
Four months ago, David Lee received the news: colon and rectal cancer.
“I wasn’t feeling very well. I had a bowel blockage,” he recalled recently.
It’s not his family’s first brush with cancer; his wife was diagnosed with breast cancer last year.
“It’s been a long road in the last couple of years,” he said.
Lee began coming to St. Luke’s Mountain States Tumor Institute (MSTI) in Twin Falls for appointments and treatments. The goal for his care has been to shrink the tumor so that it can be removed.
“I feel a whole lot better,” he said. “They have reduced the size of my tumor and it helps me to function better. Until they get it out of me, I’m in 24/7 discomfort and pain. They have been good about getting the right medicine to manage it.”
But getting to treatments and appointments hasn’t been easy. Lee lives south of Bellevue, which makes for a round trip of about three and a half hours most days of the week.
“It’s very difficult to come in for the treatments,” Lee said. “I’m coming in five days a week for radiation treatment, and the fuel is so expensive.”
To offset those costs, Lee connected with the St. Luke’s Magic Valley Health Foundation, which maintains a fund to provide financial assistance to cancer patients. The Cancer Patient Emergency Fund has provided Lee with gas cards so that he can continue with the life-saving visits.
His advice for others diagnosed with cancer?
Keep a positive attitude and “be open and prepared.
“Life goes on,” he said.
How you can help:
Get involved with “No Shave November,” the national month-long event campaign supported by individuals, companies and organizations to grow facial hair without shaving throughout November to raise awareness for those fighting the battle against cancer. Funds raised can be donated to St. Luke’s MSTI’s emergency fund.
Last year, $8,000 was raised through the campaign in the Magic Valley.
If you would like more information or to donate, go to stlukesonline.org/donate or contact the foundation at (208) 814-0070 or [email protected].
Michelle Bartlome is the public relations manager at St. Luke's Magic Valley.