Walter Wrobel

“When it comes to cancer, if your mind and body are well, you’re on steady ground.”

30 Stories in 30 Days

April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month. For the next 4 weeks, we will post stories written by cancer survivors, caregivers and friends for our 30 Stories in 30 Days campaign. We hope their perspectives and insight will help others along their journey.

I was 60 years old when I first noticed something on the side of my mouth. I knew something was wrong from the burning sensation. When I went to the doctor, they took a piece of my tongue for a biopsy, and the results came back. It was cancer. I was shocked. I had always been healthy before, and at the time I had a whole family, including a 4-year-old daughter, a son, and a wife, to live for.

Luckily it was caught early and after surgery life was back to normal. I traveled all over the world—Puerto Rico, Spain, and more—and played golf up and down the east coast. Life was wonderful.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t the end of my cancer journey. 10 years after my first diagnosis, my cancer came back in the same spot. I knew right away. It felt exactly like the first time and I knew it was serious. The first thing I did was pray. You can’t make deals with God, but you can promise to live your live through him and hope for the best.

If you have a solid core—physical and spiritual—cancer is doable

I went in for a second surgery in Albany, but they stitched me back up after seeing the spread of the cancer. The doctors knew it was serious and they wouldn’t operate. That was very scary. From there, there was nothing to do except go to a bigger hospital in New York City and see what they could do. The doctor there took my charts with him to look over. When he came back I knew this was the moment of truth. He said he could operate and I felt a flood of relief, knowing I would be fine.

Throughout my whole experience, I have never felt alone. I have wonderful doctors and a wonderful family. I’ve been surrounded by women my whole life, and my wife and mother have been a big source of support during difficult times that I’ve gone through. My mother still lives by herself at 96, and I walk over to her house to visit her often. Looking back on my journey, cancer changed the way I live my life. I am committed to living my best life despite my diagnosis. I still stay active and play golf. At the time of my second recurrence, my daughter was 14 and we told her everything that was going on. Now she’s 16 and a half, and I just got to go with her to buy her prom dress.

When it comes to cancer, if your mind and body are well, you’re on steady ground. Most people are well, even though they don’t know it. If you have a solid core—physical and spiritual—cancer is doable. Having the right mindset and the right attitude is everything. I’m a firm believer in God and his care for us. This life is a wonderful gift and knowing this helps me moving forward.