Larry McCord put out fires and tended to other people’s emergencies during a 28-year career as a Columbus firefighter. But even that background did not prepare McCord for his own life and death emergency.
“I don’t think anything can prepare you for how you feel when the doctor looks at you and tells you that you have cancer,” McCord said.
“I was really shocked when the doc said I had prostate cancer. I thought I was in the clear from that because I was religious about having my yearly physicals and my results for the PSA tests always showed zero count,” he added.
The prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test is a blood test used worldwide to screen men for prostate cancer. A good result for a healthy male should show a PSA level of less than 4.0.
Though other factors can also cause a high PSA level, a level higher than a 4 can indicate the presence of cancer cells in the prostate gland.
Additional testing for cancer is recommended if a PSA test result registers higher than 4.
Only after he was diagnosed with prostate cancer, McCord said, did he learn that 11 percent of men who take the PSA test will show a result of 0 whether they have cancer or not.
McCord said it was by chance that a friend’s advice saved his life from the stealth cancer attack.
“When I met my friend Dean Murphy for coffee in February of 2004, I complained about my back pain. He pushed me to go to the doctor about that because he said the pain I was having may be caused by something else like a kidney stone. He kept pushing so I said I would make an appointment, and I did. I had no idea how lucky I was to make that appointment,” McCord said.
After an examination and additional testing, McCord said he was informed he had a nodule on his prostate gland that needed to be biopsied immediately.
The biopsy showed a strain of aggressive cancer cells, and by the end of February McCord went through a six-and-a-half-hour surgery.
“The doctor said I was very, very fortunate because in a matter of just days it might have been too late because the cancer cells were like a sponge that were eating up all the good cells. That was the good news,” McCord said.
“The bad news was that the cancer was not the cause of the pain in my back and I would have to have another surgery to fix my back.”
The back surgery started a whole new set of problems, he added.
“I was given prescriptions for pain pills and I relied on them to help with the pain. Before long, I realized I was just relying on the pain pills, I was addicted to them,” McCord said.
Then, McCord said he had a problem with his heart that required the insertion of a couple stents.
“It felt like I was falling apart. Then a real depression set in. You never think that is going to happen to you, but it can happen to everyone. It was awful,” McCord said.
McCord said weaning himself from the pain pills was worse than the cancer, back surgery, heart problem and depression combined.
“It’s been quite a ride,” said Carol McCord, Larry’s wife of more than 50 years.
“I remember when he came home from the doctor’s appointment back in 2004. He walked in and said, ‘Well, it’s one of those good news, bad news things. The good news is that I found 76 cents on the ground on the way to the doctor’s office. The bad news is when I got to the doctor he told me I have cancer,” she added.
Its been 11 years since Larry heard the dreaded words, “You have cancer.” Larry and Carol McCord, both retired, live in the same house where they raised their three sons, Matt, Aaron and Jason.
“We’ve learned through all of this that you have to think good thoughts and work each other through the pain. There is always the chance that they are going to say the cancer is back, but he is doing his part. He is moving along and laughing on the way,” Carol McCord said.
“We had people praying for us that we didn’t even know,” Larry McCord said.
“Our family and our friends have been such a blessing for us as we made our way through all of this. Sometimes I worry the cancer might be there and I won’t know it until it is too late, but I know we just have to take it one day at a time.”
In June, the McCords took a trip to Tennessee to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary.
While at Pigeon Forge World, they met another cancer survivor, Larry Stinson, and his wife, Melinda.
A former Indiana resident, Larry Stinson was a custom jeweler at Dolly World when the McCords met him, and he designed new wedding bands for them for their anniversary.
Fast friends, Larry McCord credits Larry Stinson with an important philosophy: I may have cancer, but cancer does not have me. It is the basis for one of McCord’s many poems he has written along his journey through the world touched by cancer.
Resides: Rural Columbus
Type of Cancer: Prostate
When Diagnosed: Early 2004
Family: Wife, Carol; sons, Matt, Aaron and Jason.
Advice to those with cancer: “It’s not just about you. It’s about your loved ones, too.”