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No fear of dying

| June 18, 2010 9:00 PM

Henry Lucero was working in his yard when he thought he pulled a muscle.

When the standard over-the-counter medications failed to work, the Coeur d'Alene man sought medical care. It was in the doctor's office that he mentioned a persistent cough. Lucero was ultimately diagnosed with stage IV renal (kidney) cancer.

It was the beginning of a five-year fight for life.

"It's not so much that I was afraid of dying. For me it was more about being afraid of not living," he said.

Lucero recently returned to Cancer Treatment Centers of America at Midwestern Regional Medical Center in suburban Chicago to celebrate surpassing five years of renal cancer survivorship.

He was joined by doctors, hospital administration and the clinical support team in a tree-planting ceremony in his honor.

White doves were released at the conclusion of the event to commemorate each year of his fighting survival.

Lucero said his care was wonderful.

"CTCA is expedient in what the patient needs for treatment. They tell you the risks and rewards. And if they can't do something, they're not going to withhold the truth from you."

Cancer diagnosis

With a six-week delay looming locally to even consult with an oncologist, Lucero sprung into action researching and pursuing treatment options around the country.

The 51-year-old recalled seeing a CTCA commercial on television and put his daughter on the mission to locate the hospital. His wife sprung into action conducting all the research treatment options and locating medical records which were sent to CTCA overnight. Within 24 hours Lucero was headed to CTCA at Midwestern.

He recalls the first trip was not without incident - after a storm in Detroit, a lightening strike, an airport power outage and time on the runway, he arrived sick, exhausted but ready to fight.

Lucero's treatment plan included a radical refrectomy and a very aggressive eight-month treatment plan which was integrated with supportive therapies like nutrition and naturopathy.

He recalls the exhaustion and sleeping "like Rip Van Winkle." Within six months, all signs of the tumors were gone.

Now, after being a cancer survivor for more than five years, Lucero recalls his journey.

"I always felt that I'd live to be 120. Some people come to the hospital angry and afraid with a lot of different emotions. I had a different set of emotions about it all."

Lucero is a purchaser for Home Depot. He is a Stake Sunday School president, responsible for 10 different LDL churches, representing about 7,000 people.

He reflects on his five-year triumph.

"Well, I've been here for two more grandchildren, I've seen one son get married and another son going on a church mission, and spend time with my lovely wife. I'm participating in normal things in life. Taking care of my grandchildren restores my soul, they're fresh, new and vibrant," he smiles.

His time treating at CTCA also served as the conduit for a family reunion. Lucero reunited with his cousin - who he had not seen in 25 years - who was also treating at CTCA.

He continues to refer people to CTCA and is celebrating life and survivorship with his friends. Among many other things, Lucero's experience has also taught him the importance of always having something to believe in.

"I believe that life is to be savored not consumed. Take advantage of all the joyous things in life and know that the harsh things in life will pass quickly," he said.

This year, 156 CTCA patients are celebrating their more than five-year triumph over cancer with CTCA at Midwestern Regional Medical Center.

"We empower our patients to help them take control of their cancer and every patient is treated as though they were a member of our own family. We are so proud of our celebrants and honored to acknowledge and celebrate their journey and continued success," said Anne Meisner, president and CEO at CTCA at Midwestern Regional Medical Center.

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