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Wooster cancer survivor celebrates life during ceremony at hospital that treated him

Source: The Daily Record

Author: Amanda Gallagher

Published: July 29, 2013

WOOSTER -- A local lymphoma survivor joined more than 100 others in a celebration of being five-year cancer survivors.

Darrell Oswald, of Wooster, took part in a tree planting ceremony last month at Cancer Treatment Centers of America's Midwestern Regional Medical Center. The annual Celebrate Life event is a way to commemorate patients of CTCA who have hit the five-year milestone in their survivorship.

The 2013 Celebrate Life event marks the 25th year a tree has been planted in honor of each five-year survivor. Participants were joined by doctors, hospital administrators, clinical team members, caregivers, family members and members of the local community who attended in a show of support. During the ceremony, celebrants released five white doves, representing each year of cancer-fighting survival.

Oswald is a lifelong resident of Wooster who resides on a farm that once belonged to his parents. Oswald's father had died of cancer three months after being diagnosed. That's part of why Oswald always went to the doctor for annual checkups. In 2008, his doctor found cancer in his colon. It was Stage 4 lymphoma that had spread to all of his lymph nodes. At the time, Oswald, who is now retired, was still working and had not experienced any symptoms.

After doing some research, Oswald decided to seek treatment at CTCA at the Midwestern Regional Medical Center, located in Zion, Ill. The CTCA is a network of hospitals that focuses on complex and advanced stage cancer. Oswald made the trip to Zion and learned about his treatment options.

He ended up spending the first six months following his diagnosis at CTCA, while his wife stayed home and worked.

Although it was difficult to be away from home for that long, Oswald maintains "I went to save my life. I went for six months ... and got four and a half years."

During that time, he received chemotherapy, full-body radiation and a stem-cell transplant. After the first six months, Oswald continued to receive chemotherapy treatment for two years. Oswald received his last chemotherapy treatment in November 2011.

Oswald now returns to Zion every six months for checkups.

For his most recent trip, Oswald and all of the survivors were treated to a red carpet reception and a luncheon with gourmet offerings of natural and organic foods. The following day, the survivors traveled to the cancer center for the tree-planting ceremony. Each celebrant was also honored with an engraved gold leaf which is displayed on the "tree of life" located at the entrance of the hospital.

"That's something that helps ... to see all those names. It's there forever. It's like an achievement," said Oswald, noting the overall experience "sent a chill down (my) spine."

"It was great," he said. "It's been an adventure. I'm glad things worked out the way they did."

Since enduring cancer, Oswald has really focused on enjoying life.

"You see it differently after you've been through something like (cancer)," said Oswald.

Oswald credits his success to his decision to seek treatment at CTCA. From the start, his doctor told him "you're going to be very sick," but "I've got your back," something that stuck with Oswald.

"When they said Stage 4, I thought that was it," said Oswald. "It wasn't easy, but we got through it. I'm still here. You can't beat that."

Reporter Amanda Gallagher can be reached at 330-287-1635 or agallagher@the-daily-record.com.

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