Josh’s Journey: Not ‘why me’
“Surviving cancer was one of the great achievements in my life.” ~ Josh Katrick
“When I was going through it, I never asked, ‘why me’ like other people sometimes do,” Josh Katrick—colon cancer survivor—clears his throat. “I just accepted it. I was fortunate enough to have everything go smoothly and work out well.”
He draws a deep breath. “I’m glad I went through it. I gained a lot of experience I wouldn’t have had. I haven’t been out of this area much or been on many vacations, but I feel more worldly now.”
Nearly two years have passed since Josh was diagnosed with stage 2 colon cancer at age 36. But surgery and a year’s worth of twice-monthly treatments left him healthy; the extreme fatigue, stomach pains, dangerously low hemoglobin levels, and the mass in his colon are gone. He remains cancer-free; his scans and blood work are good.
Even in the midst of cancer treatment, Josh discovered another issue: an iliac aneurism, a weakness in the wall of the pelvis’ iliac artery. He took blood thinners during his cancer treatment, and then three months after his last chemo, underwent successful surgery.
Josh’s name may be familiar: major media featured him as a man undergoing cancer treatment who, having won a local pizza parlor’s competition for a year of pizza daily, donated his prize to a food pantry.
The Northampton County native at first thought he’d gotten through his cancer journey unscathed. During treatment, he had some neuropathy in his fingers and some fatigue—but he could carry on as if nothing unusual were happening: daily workouts, full-time job in a hospital’s medical records department, time with friends, singing in a choir, playing his guitars. He thought nothing had changed, except his efforts to eat better and attend the Cancer Support Community’s Monday Night Support Groups.
“I wanted to get support and give support,” he says. In fact, although Josh never lost his hair during chemo, he shaved his own head in solidarity with others.
He continues to attend Monday night groups. “I want to show people that cancer isn’t all bad, and that you can be healthy without being perfect. I fall off the damn wagon all the time, but I do make healthier choices like avoiding fast foods and eating more fruits and vegetables.
“Everyone talks about finding your new normal with cancer. But I just added to my ‘normal,’ and enhanced it,” says Josh. He began to do social media for The Chemo Bag, which provides gift bags with items that comfort Lehigh Valley adults undergoing chemotherapy.
But, actually, it wasn’t so simple.
As the year anniversary of his treatment’s end approached, Josh developed PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder. “That was when the ‘why me?’ kicked in. Why did I do so well? Not, why did I get cancer; I never thought about that. But, why would someone with a wife and kids go through a much harder treatment than I did, or not make it at all?” he wonders.
“That was rough for me. I would see people with cancer, with their families when I went to doctors’ offices and in support groups. I would do anything to give them a clean bill of health.” But therapy helped him understand and cope with his emotions.
“Having and surviving cancer was one of the great achievements in my life,” Josh maintains. “I also appreciate life a lot more. Cancer made me realize there are a lot of loving, caring, and special people.”
Josh attends Monday Night Support Groups at the Cancer Support Community.