STARKSBORO — What began as a part of his daily routine turned out to be a life-altering experience for Regan Wedge Sr.
Wedge, now 55, was diagnosed withcancer in 2007 and will be cancer-free for five years in September. After experiencing all the emotions of a life-threatening situation, he now reflects on what he has learned through the process.
One morning in April of 2007, the Starksboro resident noticed a small growth on the side of his neck while shaving. Not thinking much of it, he continued with his day. But he could not ignore it for long because over the next few weeks, the lump on his neck expanded, growing to the size of a marble, then a golf ball.
During a routine physical Wedge had scheduled soon thereafter, Wedge asked his doctor about the mysterious lump his neck. A series of needle biopsies concluded that it was merely a result of overactive lymph nodes. Wedge was not worried; the doctor could take care of it in a short, outpatient surgery.
As it turned out, the lump on Wedge’s neck was not the result of overactive lymph nodes, but stage four of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Cancer runs in his family, but Wedge said he was still very surprised by his diagnosis and was unable to comprehend his feelings.
“At first, I was numb,” he recalled. “They say ‘It’s not a problem, we’ll get rid of it for you,’ but I’ve had friends and relatives that have never survived. So it was numbing.”
Wedge received eight rounds of chemotherapy in eight-hour sessions at the Vermont Cancer Center in Winooski. At first, he was able to take a positive outlook on his situation and was ready to combat the cancer head on.
To remain positive, Wedge and his wife, Laurie, bought a camper and lived in an Addison campground near Lake Champlain for the duration of his chemotherapy treatment. Their thinking was that Wedge could have more interaction with others in the campground during the day.
Nevertheless, as treatment dragged on — indeed as the end of chemotherapy neared — Wedge began to lose his positive outlook and considered ending the treatment.
“At one point I told Laurie I wasn’t going to do this anymore because I was so sick,” he said. “I only had two sessions left. I thought either it’s gone or it’s not.
“That’s where Elvis came in.”
Elvis is the Wedge family dog. Laurie brought the little shih tsu home one evening, and Regan Wedge credits Elvis for lifting his sprits and giving him a reason to want to continue fighting.
“Laurie brought Elvis home for me one night. He gave me a reason to want to continue fighting.”
Wedge spoke not only of the importance of Elvis in his battle with cancer but also of support from those around him in general. Often during this period, Wedge said, he distanced himself from his family because he felt so sick. But looking back, he now recognizes the significance of family and friends in dealing with tough times.
“There were times that I felt so sorry for myself that I would neglect my family,” Wedge said. “I found that that was not a good thing. Let your family be there for you because they want to be.”
Family became even more important for Wedge after he was cleared of his cancer in August of 2007. A month later, his father, Reginald “Porky” Wedge, was diagnosed with throat cancer, and Wedge was crushed by the news.
“I still say that the reason I survived cancer was to help my father,” Wedge said. “To the day he died he swore that he was going to survive it. There were times when I felt horrible that I survived knowing that he was not going to. I felt that it wasn’t fair.”
Despite losing his father shortly after his battle with cancer, Wedge said this experience helped to shape him and give him new perspective on life that he would not have received otherwise.
“I don’t let the little things bother me anymore. If I have the chance to do something I have never done, I do it. I realized I might not be here right now, so you have to take advantage of every day.”
Wedge’s cancer treatment has been over for years now, but it is something that he carries with him to this day. He must get tested every six months and have a CAT scan every year for the rest of his life. In spite of this, it was the mental transformation that was most lasting for Wedge.
“It’s an amazing thing to go through. It made a big difference in my life.”