I've been surfing Santa Cruz since 1959, off and on. I was going out on a fairly good-sized day out at Steamer's Lane—and I had a cough before I went out, but I didn't pay a lot of attention to it. Went out, got caught inside the wrong place, and I got held underwater by about two or three waves. I thought I was going to drown. I just couldn't figure out why I couldn't hold my breath very long. I finally made my way into shore. A couple of days later, I called the doctor and went to the doctor's office to find out what was wrong.
I got the results of all the tests I'd gone through. I had MALT Lymphoma, which is a rare form of cancer. There was a mass around my lung that was about the size of a man's fist, and it was clogging up my breathing airway. When we went out to look for a doctor in a walk-in clinic—this was before going to the Palo Alto Medical Foundation—there was so much fear. A lot of frightening things were being said, and there was a real lack of personal care. For my wife, every time we'd go to an appointment, she was crying—and I was freaking out because of her fear. And I was starting to be afraid that we weren't getting good answers—that we weren't going to find out whether or not I did have cancer and whether the cancer was treatable.
When we went to Dr. Wong's office [at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation], there was a real difference. The first thing he did was come in and shake my hand and say, "Why don't you sit down? Let's get to know each other a little better." Dr. Wong, you know, he had a whole different mentality. He said, “Let's not worry about what you think is going on and rumors. Let's do a battery of tests. When we get the results of the tests, then we'll create a strategy."
When I was finished with my treatment, I felt like I ought to go back and revisit my [medical] family. I mean, they really made you feel like they cared. I started looking forward to going to chemo. That was not something you could have told me, when this started.
I'm now back out in the water surfing. I'm back at work. I never saw myself as a cancer patient, I saw myself as a cancer student. You know, I didn't want to fall victim to just sitting and worrying about my treatment. My experience has changed my whole outlook on being treated as a patient and having someone really care about your health.