A survivor’s story: colon cancer

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Whitney Laine
  • 92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
The taste of metal filled his mouth as an icy current numbed his fingers and toes. The chemotherapy machine hummed sharply beside the bed, draining the medicine into his blood stream to attack the sickness manifesting in his body.

It was March 10, 2018, when Christopher Hicks was diagnosed with stage-three colon cancer.

“That day was a whirlwind,” said Hicks, a technical sergeant with the 92nd Operations Support Squadron aircrew flight equipment lead trainer. “Two days after a colonoscopy, the results showed the presence of a large malignant tumor in my colon. I took five minutes to grieve, then I accepted the inevitable challenge that shook my life.”

Hicks had served the past 17 years to fight for his country; but did not volunteer to battle a life threatening illness.

“We began the first round of chemotherapy a month later; it took a toll on me,” Hicks said. “After each treatment, I would rest for the evening, but the next day, I pushed myself to get up, even when I didn’t want to.”

Quitting was not an option for Hicks, who decided it was a battle worth winning.

“I continued to play basketball and took classes to keep my mind sharp and combat the onset of fog with each chemo and radiation treatment,” Hicks said. “Growing up less fortunate; I refined a warrior’s mentality to fight. I’ve been a fighter all of my life and cancer was just one more thing to conquer.”

Hicks found ways to continue to serve in the midst of wrestling with the cancer treatments, which came with severely debilitating side effects.

“While I sat in my chemo suite, I heard stories from worn down patients who had been fighting cancer for years, reminding me of how blessed I was,” Hicks said. “Caring for others has always been one of my priorities; each treatment in the suite offered time for me to encourage and share hope with the other patients.”

Resiliency is a key component necessary to push through life’s challenges.

“From the first day of his battle with cancer to his victory in remission, Hicks chose to show up and find the gift in each day,” said Melissa White, 92nd Medical Group case manager. “He demonstrated a huge amount of resilience and wisdom throughout his treatment by choosing to fight and allowing others to help him in the struggle.”

In addition to his family, Hicks found support through his co-workers, leadership and medical providers who stood beside him in a time of need as an Air Force family, who never leaves a wingman behind.

“Shortly after receiving a final prognosis, I was notified of a medical board to be held on my behalf to evaluate medical discharge due to ineligibility of deployment for the year of treatment,” Hicks said. “This blindsided me. Without the support of my commander, case manager, physical evaluation board liaison officer and the rest of our team, this past year would have been grim.”

Hicks reached complete remission Feb. 8, 2019, through personal persistence and tenacious team support.

“This past year’s struggles gave me a new perspective to live better than I had before -- as a husband, father, friend and coworker,” Hicks said. “I have a life changing condition I have to deal with for the rest of my life, but it’s nothing compared to what some people are dealing with on a daily basis. I’m healthy again, I have an amazing team behind me and I’m back at work. I’m truly blessed!”

Being extra vigilant to ask the questions, check-in on others, as well as taking care of my own health has grown to be a priority, Hicks said.

Preventative measures and routine check-ups are invaluable to personal healthcare and maintaining mission readiness.

“It is important to take on-going signs and symptoms seriously,” White said. “While navigating medical treatment can be overwhelming, case management officials advocate for patients through assisting them to recognize and overcome barriers, provide education throughout decision making and treatment and aiding in communication between their family and all health care providers.”