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"I have what?....My bout with Cancer"

Updated on May 22, 2011

Duty, Honor, Integrity, Respect

"The day my life changed....

"SSGT Randolph, I need you to go to my office and wait for me there." That was my Hospital surgeon Doc Williams, the man who would help save my life in 1997.....It was February 12th, 1997, and I was a Medical Technician/EMT-B serving in the United States Air Force. I had joined in 1986, and had seen and done some amazing things in those 11 years. That's another story though...This is about the ordeal of having cancer, in what I thought was the prime of my life. I was 34, riding bulls or riding motocross bikes every weekend....just being a adventurist while I was doing what I loved....working as a medic in the USAF. Well, back to Doc Williams and the day he told me the news......

He was talking to a Captain in the hallway of the hospital when he said what he said to me. As soon as he had stopped me, I knew it was going to be bad news...I told him there in the hallway, "Doc, just tell me, this is me...Jeff....I know I have cancer, I have that gut feeling, so just come out and say it, and let's get started on getting it out of my body sir." "Ok Jeff, we recieved the results back from your biopsy this morning, and you have Stage 1A Hodgkin's Disease....I'm sorry Jeff." I knew it was serious when he called me Jeff....Usually your rank was used but he was empathetic to my feelings. I stood there for a second, saying nothing....finally I looked him in the eyes and said, "Doc, are you freaking (I didn't say freaking) kidding me?!" He wasn't..... Well, I sat down in his office after that to talk about the disease, the plan of attack, the time I'd be out of commission, where I'd do my treatments, etc.....

Doc made some calls and decided to send me to Ft Gordon, Eisenhower Army Medical Center, Augusta, GA for more tests.....A few weeks went by until I told my family, I didn't want to worry them just yet. I told my bigger brother Wayne, so I drove to Ft. Gordon, while Wayne drove from Atlanta to meet me there and be with me to have an extra set of ears to listen to what the Oncologist had to say. Oh, this was going to be a day I would never forget. Wayne and I sat down with the Colonel, who's name I won't mention...since he screwed up while performing my bilateral hip bone marrow aspiration....Yes, he "F'd" up bad! He told me that since the cancer was only Stage 1A, HE was going to wait a month to see how it progressed. I almost jumped over the desk to punch his lights out, but me being the professional I am when in a military uniform, calmly leaned forward and sternly said to him....."Colonel, right now I don't care that you're a Colonel, and that I'm a Staff Sargent,....I'm talking to you man to man, and I'm NOT leaving this hospital UNTIL you do my Bilateral Aspiration....So, go find a room, get a tech and let's get it done!!" Wayne was like, Holy ****, are you nuts, you're doing that Today?! I wasn't going to go back to the base, live another month with this cancer in me and give it a chance to spread to my other organs....Was he freakin kidding me?!! That oncologist stood up, didn't say a word, and walked out to find a tech, and a room STAT!

The room was a supply room, not used for anything except They rolled a gurney into it, draped a sheet over it and told me to lie face down and to pull my pants down to my thighs. Wayne patiently stood there, watching what was happening, but looking a little queasy. The doc numbed my backside with Lidocaine and started the procedure of taking a piece of bone marrow from each hip, to check for cancer. Have you EVER seen the size of the needle they use for that procedure?!! You can get them at Home Depot in the Garden Supply area!! CRIPES! Ok, so the doc finishes with my left side, after making my teeth chatter from the weird feeling of aspirating my hip bone marrow. Not a good feeling at all!! I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy.

He (Oncologist) looks at me and says, "Ok, I'm going to do the right side now, so get ready." I put my head in the pillow face down and bite down hard when the needle goes deep....The Lidocaine had WORN OFF on that side since he took so long on my left side!! I screamed like I'd been shot, so he stops and says, "You felt that Sargent?" Yes , you freaking idiot, you think I scream for the hell of it....PUTZ!! I said that under my breath. He said he was going to have to re-numb me again, but I stopped him in his tracks, and told him, "No you're not doc, just get it over with NOW!" I bit down on the pillow and motioned for him to go ahead....The pain coursed through my body as he stuck the needle deeper and deeper into my right buttocks area, until he reached my hip bone....Using the special needle, he "clipped" a piece of hip bone off with some marrow, and aspirated it into the needle.....OMG, my world was turning upside down!! Wayne had to step out, since he was almost at "fainting' stage...(pale, nauseous, sweating frantically, etc), and now a nurse had stepped in when she heard the woman (me) screaming. It's funny now, but it wasn't too damn funny at that moment. After the ordeal, after I cleaned my rear of the blood, after I wiped the sweat from my body, I limped into the Doc's office, shut the door slowly, and told him...."Sir, if I was a civilian, I'd whip your unprofessional ass right now, right here!" He was very apologetic, but I had lost all respect for him in the last hour. I thought Wayne was going to lay into him as well, but we didn't do that. We got the info we needed, and left shortly after. As I left the Oncologist' office, he wished me good luck. I told him, "I don't need luck...I WILL beat this!!", and that was the last time I saw him.

Fast forward a week.....Now I'm lying in the Operating Room, Doc Williams has just entered to perform an Exploratory Lab on me to check for signs of cancer spreading on my organs, aortic nodes, etc. I tell Doc, "While you're in there, suck out any fat you see." He says quietly...."Jeff, you don't have any fat to suck out, and that's probably why the cancer is localized in your lymph nodes in your armpit.....I start to count from 100 backwards...100, 99, 98, 9....I'm out. He makes the incision mid-line, from my navel up to the base of my pecs, opens me up and gets busy looking for more cancer. He removes my Spleen, several aortic nodes, a little piece of my liver, and some lymph nodes to check them more closely. Now Spleen-less, my immune system is not running at 100%, so I have to be careful and not get around sick people, colds, flu's, anything for that matter. The results came back....Negative on all counts, now to attack the Hodgkin's Disease in my lymph nodes. Doc asks me, "Jeff, where would you like to go to be treated?" I immediately look him in the eye, and ask, "Well Doc, where would YOU want to go if you were in MY shoes?" He says nothing, picks the phone up and calls Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC. "Yes, this is Colonel David Williams, Hospital Surgeon at Shaw AFB, SC....I'm sending you a personal friend of mine, SSGT Jeff Randolph....He has Stage 1A Hodgkin's and needs treatment, do your best for him, he's special to us here! I'll call tomorrow with further instructions." Doc hangs up, and says, "Jeff, you leave next week, make your plans now. It was sinking in, I ....SSGT Jeff Randolph had Hodgkin's Disease and now I was about to go through radiation or chemo treatments to try to kill it and start living again.

Wayne had flown in to ride with me to D.C. What a trip that was....I will never forget the great time we had on the road to D.C. We stopped in Charlotte and watched a motocross race at the speedway. Great times!! We made it to D.C the next day, signed in to the hospital self-care ward, and met the two doctors that would do my treatments. We talked about the different options I had and decided that 6 weeks of radiation would be the best route since it was Stage 1A, the best you could have, if you were unlucky enough to have that type. Wow, what an experience it would be......

The Radiation Treatments...

After meeting the Doctors at Walter Reed, and deciding which path to take for treatments, I made myself at home on the self-care ward....I decided to get a bed in one of the corners, so I could at least have a little privacy while there. There were probably 40 men on that ward, all there because they had some type of cancer. It was amazing to know that these men were going through or about to go through the same type of ordeal I was. I made friends quickly, and we would talk about our different cancers and our lives up to that point in our life. These were all service like me, or veterans, and retired veterans. We had two common bonds now....We served our country proud and NOW we ALL had cancer. It's a mean disease, and it will latch on to anyone, it doesn't care about age, sex, or religion. It kills the small innocent babies, small children, and the old alike. Well, it wasn't going to get me if I had anything to do about it....and I did! I was proactive, I attacked it with good doctors, good exercise, and good faith in my Lord. I knew if I put it in his hands, he would do what was needed, good or was HIS call. I was at peace with dying. I had had an interesting life so far. Yes, I was only 34, but I felt I had accomplished many things others would've never had the chance to see or do. In the military, you are given big responsibilities on your first day. They break you down then they build you back up so they can have everyone on the same page as they say. I lived and breathed military life 24/7 for 12 active years, and I am still that way in my civilian life....Honor, Duty, Integrity, and Service in all I do.

Maybe it's not the way many people live, but the military was, and still is a great place to learn responsibility and respect, something the younger generations of today need badly, plus it was a good place for me. Before I joined in 1986, I was at a dead end job, I was a young, married man with a young wife and the road was pretty rough for us. I made my mind up that we needed a change. So, I came home one day, my wife was sitting on the couch as usual, and I told her...."I joined the Air Force today, I leave in a month for boot camp." She was in shock I think at first, but it finally sank in after a week or so. I told her we would live on base after a short while, but we'd find an apartment where ever we went. So, it all fell into place.......I survived boot camp, tech school, and Aircraft Mechanic school. I saw my wife one time during those six months, plus she was pregnant with our son Chris. He has followed in my footsteps and is now serving our country in the USAF as well. My marriage survived 9 years, but finally fizzled out in 1993. Things happen for a reason........we live, we laugh, we love, we move on.

It was tough at first, going through the divorce, the move, being away from my son, etc. We all survived it though, and probably for the better. My son and I have a great relationship now, I'm a grandfather of a beautiful little girl, and looking forward to the day he leaves the military life and comes back to GA. to share his family with me. I love them to death!

The Radiation was brutal....My schedule was the same each day.....Monday thru Friday, rest weekends, then start the regiment again for six long weeks. Each morning, I would get up at 0800, get a protein heavy breakfast in the hospital cafeteria and then head down to the Oncology Department. There, I'd meet with Dr. Jamie Bloom and Dr. Haskins. The first task was to make spot tattoo's to mark the area like a graph, where the radiation would hit. Next, they placed me on the table, face up, and used the RAD machine to make a test run. They stood behind the protective wall as the radiation machine growled at me. 6 weeks of this, yeah for me!! The side effects for me were nausea, malaise, a run-down feeling, and weight loss. My body also lost it's sun blocking abilities as well, so if I had to be in the sun, I had to wear long sleeves, a hat, and long pants to keep from looking like a Lobster. Ah, what fun it was. Well, the doctors would keep notes each day of my progress, the size of the tumor, and everything else that was needed. These guys were younger than me so we connected as friends. They were good at their job...killing cancer in patients......I put my faith and life in their hands, now I was just waiting for the results....

Joining the sculling team....

It was the end of the first week of treatments....there were six (weeks) in all. After each one, I would go back to my ward, and sleep until 3:00 pm each day. After that, I wouldn't have anything to do until the next day. This was not me so I had to do something about it, and fast. I had my own vehicle there so I headed to Georgetown to see the town and the surrounding area of D.C. I parked and walked down to the Potomac River to gather my thoughts. I noticed a sculling (rowing) crew coming upstream, each rower in unison with the others. I followed them to a take out spot on the river, and asked to see the man in charge. They put me in touch with a guy on the river so I went to see him the next afternoon. I told him my predicament and he was empathetic to it. He told me to be there on Monday at 4:00 pm and ready to row. So, that's what I did.....each evening from 4 to 6, I'd row with seven other guys. It kept me in shape, and gave me the energy I needed to keep up with the radiation treatments. The only thing that I didn't like was having to wear the long sleeves, long pants, and hats during my rowing sessions. But hey, I stayed in good shape, and my docs were amazed to know I was doing things like that. I'd also run 4 laps around the hospital each day as well. I was not going to die anytime soon! Well, I hoped I wasn't....I had to keep humor in the picture as well. Giving up was half the battle, and I was not one to do that......ever!

The weeks went by slowly but surely, and my body seemed to accept the radiation treatments for the better. The docs were happy with the results too, so that in turn gave me a better outlook. I was going to live....I was going to be able to see my son again, to tell him I loved him more than anything in the world, and to prove to him that a person can overcome the worst if they don't give up or give in to whatever has a hold on them. I said my goodbye's and thank you's to the doctors and staff of the Radiation Department at Walter Reed, and drove back to Shaw AFB, SC. Walking into the hospital where I worked, and seeing the usual faces was a sight for sore eyes. My superiors and comrades welcomed me with open arms, and we celebrated together that I was back, and ready for anything. But, I had to do one more thing before I celebrated....I walked into Doctor Williams office, and waited for the secretary to allow me to see him. He was sitting at his desk, going through my post treatment report from the doctors at Walter Reed. I stopped, and stood at attention..."SSGT Randolph reporting for duty sir!" He looked up with tears in his eyes...."Welcome home Jeff, I missed you buddy. But I knew you'd beat this and return to us because you my friend are a fighter." He came around his desk and gave me the welcome home hug that only survivors know. He told me when he did my exploratory lab, he knew I would be ok, and that if I hadn't had been riding bulls and motocross bikes that my body probably wouldn't have been able to fight off the cancer. (I knew there was a reason I should do crazy stunts) I told him, "Maybe so, but I beat it only because God planned it that way Doc." He agreed, and with that he asked me what my plans were for the future. My service time was almost upon me, and he told me I had options to think about. I could stay in the Air Force or I could be Honorably discharged....It was my choice. I didn't think long about it, I had made my mind up while lying in bed one night in D.C. I had other plans, and other dreams. I served my country long enough, and I wanted to see my son more, and my family as well. I had a dream of going to culinary school as well, so that's what I did. I separated on October 21, 1997....11 years and 7 months after joining on March 10, 1986. I would miss the camaraderie and the excitement of working in the Emergency Room as a Medical Tech, but I knew there would be better times ahead in my future. I started my Culinary School one month later.........To the ones that read this....If you're ever faced with any tribulation, the one thing you must NEVER do is this.........NEVER....EVER....GIVE....UP!! Stay strong!! JVR


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    • Jrandol62 profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Where ever the road takes me....

      Thanks everyone, for the kind words!! I'm blessed to be able to share my stories with you all. I owe it ALL to God above!! They say what doesn't kill you makes you stronger...I'm here to tell you that's VERY true!! Live life to the fullest, stay strong, and be kind to all, esp the little ones....THEY are our future! My hub door is always open if anyone wants to vent....God Bless, Jeff

    • one2recognize2 profile image


      6 years ago from New York

      Very glad the outcome was success. Beating cancer and living life to the fullest is an amazing mindset. Thanks for sharing your ordeal with us and may God continue to bless you and your family always. Voted up, and rated useful, awesome and beautiful.

    • profile image 

      6 years ago

      So - how's the kitchen? Life moves on - glad you were one who survived, too many do not. Good for you - moving on with your life, I hope your son understands.


    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 

      6 years ago from California

      This is a very compelling story! One that should be shared!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish MS 

      6 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Congratulations on surviving cancer and the other obstacles life has laid before you! Rated Up and more.

    • Judi Bee profile image

      Judi Brown 

      6 years ago from UK

      Good to read a success story, very happy that you have beaten this dreadful disease.

    • tammyswallow profile image


      6 years ago from North Carolina

      You tell a compelling story. I was riveted. You are one tough cookie. I am glad you survived this cancer. This explains your gusto in life that pervades all of your hubs. Very inspiring!

    • molometer profile image


      6 years ago from United Kingdom

      This was an amazing journey and shows the courage it takes to get through something as life changing as cancer.

      Thanks for sharing you experience with us I know it gives us hope to people to know that there can be a good outcome sometimes.

    • Jrandol62 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Where ever the road takes me....

      Thanks friend....glad to be here!

    • Cogerson profile image


      7 years ago from Virginia

      Congrats on your battle with the beast....this horrible beast takes on some many is good to read about someone's success.....voted are the man.

    • Jrandol62 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Where ever the road takes me....

      This roller coaster ride has many more hills to climb!! Hang on friend! Thanks for reading my story. I'm fine now, thanks to the good Lord and some great docs!

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 

      7 years ago from Orlando, FL

      What an amazing journey you've had. I felt like I was on the roller coaster with you. I hope all you are well. Thank you for sharing. Wow.

    • Jrandol62 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Where ever the road takes me....

      Thanks friend...I owe it ALL to God above! He's brought me through many trials....Enjoy your posts, will keep in touch friend. :)

    • profile image

      Mel Crosby 

      7 years ago

      Hey J.R., WOW, what a story. You are blessed as well as being a strong man to go through such an experience. It's good to know you through Hub Pages. Thanks for reading my post also, Health is pretty important to me I lost an older sister to cancer when I was 13 and it kind of made me more conscious about my own health. So I'm sorta like you " Prevention "

      If you ever have any questions about Green Lipped Mussel feel free to contact me or check out the link when ever you have the time.

      Take Care stay Strong and let's keep in touch.


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