Cummings feels blessed as survivor of colon cancer

Posted By | April 29, 2002 12:00 am

Kim Swindell Wood
There are many words in the English language that are associated with fear, but the one that casts the greatest feeling of uncertainty and alarm is cancer.
In 1985, Billy Cummings was 31 years old when he was diagnosed with colon cancer and told he had only a 40 percent chance of survival. “I had never had any symptoms,” said Cummings. “I developed a severe case of diarrhea that lasted about three or four weeks. I was just about worn out by then, so I went to the doctor.”
Cummings’ physician recommended more extensive tests and he went to Smithville. “They suspected something was wrong, so they sent me to Nashville,” said Cummings.
After the medical professionals in Nashville ran a more widespread series of tests, they confirmed Cummings had colon cancer. “I felt like I had sunk about 40 feet into my bed when they told me I had cancer,” said Cummings. “I felt like it was the end.”
Cummings said all he could think about was his family. “I had two small children at the time,” he said. “I was afraid I wouldn’t live to see them grow up.”
Cummings spent two and a half months in the hospital, where they removed several inches of his colon. “I don’t remember how much they removed,” he said. “They did a colostomy on me and I wore that for one and a half years.”
“I had three tumors,” said Cummings. “One had ruptured and it was throwing off enough infection to trigger the diarrhea I had.”
According to Cummings, he had two tumors in his colon and one lying against his spine. He said chemotherapy was recommended for the spinal tumor, since the other tumors had been removed during the surgery. “I took chemo for one and a half years,” said Cummings. “I lost my hair and dropped from 200 pounds to 130. I just hoped I had done the right thing. All you can do is fight.”
Cummings gives a great deal of credit to his mother and former wife. “My mom stayed with me about 90 percent of time,” said Cummings. “My wife had to work during the week and she would come on the weekends.”
Cummings believes a positive attitude and a will to live helps a cancer patient fight the battle. “Being young and mean helped me pull through,” he jokingly said.
However, Cummings became immediately serious when he said, “I did a lot of praying, hoping and wishing.”
Cummings did not return to work for approximately one year. “My energy level was very low when I first went back to work,” he said.
Cummings did not fit into the normal category for individuals diagnosed with colon cancer. “I was only 31 years old when I found out about my cancer,” said Cummings. “I did find out I had an uncle who had been diagnosed with colon cancer.”
“No matter how old you are, you should start getting check-ups for colon cancer,” said Cummings. “I was only 31 years old when I found out, so the earlier you start getting check-ups, the better.”
Cummings said he feels great and gets his annual check-ups. He works at Federal Mogul and lives in the Hickory Valley community, where he has a little horse farm.
“I feel very lucky,” said Cummings.

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