Cancer can strike at anyone, any time, any where

Image: Tom Little

Tom Little (Alysa Kirton)

Even though he had been adventurous all his life, Tom Little of Italy did something in 2010 that he thought he would never do. He attended the Relay For Life of Central Ellis County and walked in the Survivor Lap.

“I have many friends that attend Relay every year,” said Little. “Our church has raised money for several years and I donated to the American Cancer Society through them. I know a lot of people around the county that are survivors that walk the Survivor Lap. I never thought in a million years that I would have cancer.”

Little was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2009 at the age of 83. Cancer can strike anyone at anytime. It is no respecter of age or gender. There does not have to be a history of cancer in the family either. Tom Little is proof of that.

Tom was raised in Breckenridge, Texas. He enlisted in the Merchant Marines during WWII and traveled all over the world. After the military, he worked for National Cash Register. He left National and went into banking. He retired in 1987, but decided to return to work in the insurance field. He worked for Germania Insurance Company in Italy for several years.

He is a Deacon at Central Baptist Church in Italy. He is a past District Governor of the Rotary Club, a past member of the Italy City Council and is a current member of the Italy Economic Development Board. He was the Chair of the Ellis County Appraisal Board for five years.

When he began to have pain in his abdomen, he saw a doctor at the Veterans Hospital in Waco. The doctor told him he did not think it was anything to worry about. When he saw another VA doctor a year later, he mentioned the pain again. The doctor ordered a CT scan which showed a mass in his colon.

“The doctor wanted me to have a colonoscopy, but it would have been several months before I could have it in Waco, so I decided not to wait. I know now that was the right decision. Dr. Sullivan in Ennis performed the test and confirmed the mass. He referred me to Dr. Fayiga in Waxahachie for the surgery. The polyp was so large, it was seeded in the lining of my colon. I cannot say enough about Dr. Fayiga. He was wonderful.”

The mass was removed and confirmed to be malignant. Only one lymph node was affected. Little’s oncologist did not recommend chemo or radiation.

“Dr. Orr told me I did not have to have chemo or radiation,” Little explained. “He said that at my age, I would die from something else before I would die from cancer. I was very relieved with his diagnosis and almost felt guilty that this was so easy compared to a lot of people I know that have had cancer.”

“Barbara and I have been married for 32 years. There are two things I really love to do. The first is read and the second is try to dodge Barbara,” he said with a laugh. “Seriously, Barbara is wonderful. She took such good care of me after the surgery. Infection set in my incision and I was pretty sick. Home health nurses came for 63 days to dress the wound. That was the worst part of this.”

Little said that he had great emotional support from Barbara and several members at Central Baptist Church. He knows how important his friends were during this time.

Through the encouragement of a close friend, Tom walked the Survivor Lap at Relay last year and plans to do the same thing this year.

“It was very emotional walking with all the survivors last year,” Little said. “I walked with several of my friends who are survivors. As we were walking, people lined the track and began to cheer and clap. It was an experience I will never forget. I am looking forward to the lap again this year.”

Tom said that the only other time he felt this much emotion was when he participated in Honor Flight. He said that when they landed in Baltimore and walked into the airport, people were there clapping and cheering.

Little is proof that early detection is a key to surviving cancer. He never misses his checkups which is also important. He knows how important a second opinion can be. He lives one day at a time and plans to keep going as long as he is able. He enjoys sitting on their porch with Barbara when the weather permits.

Barbara will be the first to tell you that Tom is a crotchety old man that can get on her nerves in a second, but she will also tell you how much she loves Tom and is so thankful the cancer was caught in an early stage and did not take him away from her.

“Tom is very set in his ways and can be very outspoken most of the time, but I want everyone to know that I love him and am thankful God put us together,” Barbara Little said. “I also want everyone to know that the opinions and statements of Tom Little are not necessarily the opinions and statements of Barbara Little,” she said with a grin and a wink.

Relay For Life of Central Ellis County will be held on May 20 & 21, 2011 at the Waxahachie Sports Complex on Hwy 287 & Broadhead Road.

If you would like to form a team or join a team, please contact Team Development Chair, Denise Owens (972) 742-3982 or denise.owens@att.net. For more information contact Event Chair, Jennifer Buckhannon (214) 458-1911.

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