Randy and Brenda Oaks were enjoying vacation in Myrtle Beach in May 2017. They did some relaxing, fishing and sight-seeing.
But toward the end of this fun-filled break, Randy felt discomfort, and there was blood in his bowel movements.
Soon after arriving back home, he was diagnosed with colon cancer.
“They found a tumor the size of a golf ball,” Oaks says. “They had to take it out right away or run the risk of cancer cells getting into my blood.’’
On May 26, Oaks underwent surgery to remove a foot of his colon. He then had to go through eight chemotherapy sessions to kill the remaining cancer cells in his body.
But after four grueling sessions, he received the news that he called a miracle: The cancer was gone.
After taking July off work because of some of the chemo’s side-effects, he was back to work as a maintenance man at Apollo-Ridge School District last August. On Feb. 1, 2018, the 59-year-old was promoted to assistant director of grounds and facilities in the district.
How to cope
Oaks credits prayer and herbal supplements for this abbreviated bout with cancer. He consumed many juices and supplements to help his muscles and digestion during the chemotherapy weeks. Brenda made him healthy meals, and he ate fruits and vegetables.
And he credits “The Man Upstairs” for his swift recovery.
“I was a prayerful man before, but not as much as I am now,” he says with a laugh. “You go to church and all of a sudden, something comes up and you need that spiritual help to get you through the bad times.”
But he wasn’t alone. For those who remember an early scene in “It’s a Wonderful Life” — a montage of people praying for the movie’s main character — Oaks’ experience was similar to that.
“People were praying for me from our church (Indiana Wesleyan Methodist Church), other churches, prayer groups and people in school,” Oaks says. “Everybody, when they found out what happened to me, put me in their prayers. People sent me cards – hundreds of cards. Even people I haven’t seen in years found out about it and people were telling me they prayed for me every day. God has blessed me through all of this.’’
He admits to being shocked when he received the diagnosis.
“I thought, ‘oh no, what do I do now?’” Oaks says. “I never expected cancer. But I figured it will be whatever it will be. I was never scared. I knew in my heart it was going to go away.”
The weeks of chemotherapy seemed very long as Oaks was going through them.
“For a while, I thought it was never going to end,” he says. “I was working two jobs when it happened and I didn’t want to be inactive. But I wasn’t going to let it beat me. We were all surprised that after the fourth treatment it was gone. The doctors were shocked.
“Their protocol is to continue the treatments until the end. But since they said it was gone, why do I want to put my body through the rest of this? But I am taking my chances. I get the blood tested and they have found I am still cancer-free. They can’t find anything.”
Another positive to come out of this is that Oaks has gone down from 237 pounds before the cancer to 195 to start 2018. He is able to hunt again and play point guard on his church-league basketball team.
That may not sound like much, but during the last few years he couldn’t even run up and down the court. And this is a man who loves basketball. He played during his high school years and was about 50 points shy of 1,000 career points in an era that did not have the 3-point line.
Oaks also coached hoops for 35 years, including a long stint at Northern Cambria. He was named the Altoona Mirror newspaper’s Boys Basketball Coach of the Year in 2001 and 2011. So, getting back on the court is a big deal.
“I feel healthier now than I have for 15 years,” he says. “It all happened so much so fast that it was a blessing.”