Marco Santana has been a law enforcement officer for more 16 years, so he’s used to putting his life on the line. But in 2011, at the age of just 30, his life was put in jeopardy in another way when he received news that no man ever wants to hear. He was diagnosed with testicular cancer.
Marco, who has been married for 13 years, has two daughters, ages 11 and 8. At the time of his diagnosis, his daughters were very young. “I had little kids when it happened. My youngest one was barely born,” he recalled. “I tried to separate my family away from my diagnosis. I kept a lot of it to myself so I wouldn’t burden anyone with it.”
It was Marco’s urologist, Dr. Nash, who referred him to YRMC for cancer care. “I had a phenomenal doctor named Brenda Carroll who is now retired. She’s the one that took on my case. It was a tough case, in my opinion. Obviously, I’m not a doctor, but I was always under the impression that maybe I would need a little bit of chemo.”
Dr. Carroll had other ideas. Marco recalled her saying, “No, I’m the doctor. Please trust in me.” He said he’s very happy that he did. Marco underwent a procedure called an orchiectomy (removal of the testicle). “It was what Dr. Carroll opted to do and I agreed with her.” Marco did not require any chemo or radiation and he has now been cancer free for eight years.
Marco appreciated the open dialogue he was able to have with Dr. Carroll. “I always had a list of questions every time I saw her, and she always answered every one of them.” He is also grateful that he was able to receive the care he needed close to home. “It would be very difficult for me to have to take time off,” he explained. “I’m very happy that I don’t have to travel anywhere else.”
When Dr. Carroll retired, Marco began seeing Dr. Augustine Lau for follow-up care. “He’s been phenomenal,” Marco said. “He’s very knowledgeable and pays a lot of attention to detail. I’m very, very impressed. I’m very appreciative of what both doctors did for me.”
After his surgery, Marco’s progress was closely monitored throughout a surveillance period during which he underwent CT scans and x-rays every three months. Now, he just has to have blood work performed every six months. “I guess I’ve had enough bloodwork for two lifetimes,” he mused.
Marco also credits his deep faith for getting him through his cancer battle. “I can speak from personal experience that it’s really important to have God in your heart and have Him guide you in the right direction. I believe there’s a reason why things happen. It was fate and it was fate for me to stick around. I know for a fact that God had a plan for a second chance for me to move on with my life.”
Marco says that there are no words that can accurately describe what it feels like to be given the chance to see his family grow up. “I’m very blessed and happy for many reasons,” he said. “There’s no doubt in my mind that my purpose in life right now is to be there for my kids and help them ultimately succeed in their lives. I truly believe that.”
He also wants to assure others who have been diagnosed with cancer that they’re not alone. “I want people to know that there are a lot of people that have gone through this. We must continue to work hard and we can do it. One of the most important things that helped me as a cancer survivor is to stay positive.”
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