Imagine you’re a seven-year-old boy. You’re playing around with your older brother, and as we all know, that can sometimes get a little rough. Unexpectedly, your leg begins to swell up in an abnormal way. Your parents take you to the hospital for treatment.
While there, the doctors discover something terrifying, something life-altering. You have cancer – not just any type of cancer, but one so rare in someone your age that treatment is unknown. The doctors don’t know how to help you; they don’t even know how long you have left to live. Your life has completely changed.
No, we probably couldn’t imagine going through an experience like that. It’s not a fate a lot of people have to live through. But someone did – a young man who is actually one of our very own colleagues. He’s a 19-year-old Yuba College student campus and despite the major complications that he’s had to experience in his life, this student has made the most of life and the opportunities presented to him.
Eric Cook was seven years old when he was diagnosed with fiber sacoma, a cancer that affects the area between the bones and muscles in the body. Since Cook was born a healthy child, no one was aware of this rare type of cancer that resided in his young body. An abnormal swelling in his leg caused his parents to take him to the hospital and the doctors discovered the cancer.
“They didn’t know what to do to treat me,” said Cook. “They had never seen this type of cancer in someone my age before.”
The usual age for an individual to have fiber sacoma is either as a baby or as an older adult. This made treatment for Cook very difficult, because the doctors weren’t sure if they should give him the lighter chemotherapy or the heavier kind. Due to the questionable nature of Cook’s case, his chances of living did not look good.
“They told me there was a 60 to 70 percent chance of not making it,” said Cook. Those odds were not encouraging.
The doctors decided to try every chemotherapy and radiation possible. For two and a half years, Cook went through treatment; he would spend a week in the hospital, then two weeks at home. His family and two older brothers were always cheering him on, keeping the situation light for young Cook.
“I really wasn’t aware of the seriousness of the whole thing,” he said. “But they were always right there with me, supporting me.”
In fact, many neighbors and personnel of the fire department in Marietta, where Cook lived at the time, were very supportive and encouraging to Cook. Cook remembered an incident when several fire fighters, after hearing about his fight against cancer, went into a barbershop and shaved their heads to raise funds and to show their support for him. It was a powerful memory and has stuck with Cook to this day.
“That was one of the reasons I wanted to become a fire-fighter paramedic,” he said. Cook is training as a cadet in Yuba College’s fire department program. “The support they showed me made me want to help others in return.”
The miracle of Cook’s story is that he’s alive and here today, despite the disheartening diagnosis the doctors had given him. Within three years, Cook had overcome all the odds that had been stacked against him. Today, he’s been declared cancer-free after nine years of being in remission and is living a normal, healthy life.
Going through such an experience has made Cook realize how important it is to help others in life and that it’s not something to be taken for granted.
“A big thing I’m learning throughout life,” said Cook, “is that it helps me out to help others.”