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Dr. David Houchens spent 35 years in preclinical and clinical cancer research in a variety of cancer types. He directed laboratory studies and coordinated research efforts related to prevention, detection, and treatment at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD, and at Battelle Memorial Institute, as well as in a private bio-tech firm here in Columbus.

In 2001, Dave was diagnosed with prostate cancer and came face to face with the disease in a personal way. His cancer diagnosis had a tremendous impact on his wife, Kathie, a foreign language educator, musician, artist and spiritual director.

As a caregiver, Kathie has found it important and helpful to become involved at Cancer Support Community as a way to maintain her own balance and well-being, and to reach out to others in a spirit of hope and compassion. Here is her story:

When he got the diagnosis Dave was not surprised.  He had been following his PSA blood level for a number of years and even had had a negative biopsy.  When a follow-up showed the cancer, he knew he had options for treatment, and the “gold standard” at the time was surgery.  He chose to have a radical prostatectomy.

I, on the other hand, was stunned and in a state of shock.  I had just lost my father to cancer two years earlier, and could hardly fathom losing a husband, too.  It meant an abrupt change of lifestyle; the fear of becoming a young widow made me think about commitments that kept me from spending time with Dave. After-work events that took us in separate directions were now not going to have priority on the calendar. We each began to see each other with new eyes; every day was precious to us as we entered a world of discovering ways to cope.

Dave is a “glass half full” kind of person.  He will find the positive side of even theDave bleakest situation.  He never complains and is easy to live with.

The class at Cancer Support Community that attracted me first was Gentle Yoga. I was invited to join the class by Abby Dorn, the instructor, who also teaches yoga at The James. There is a limit on how long programs at The James are available, so I chose to continue the classes at Cancer Support Community.

The yoga program has made the biggest difference in keeping me calm about whatever comes next.  By maintaining my flexibility as I age, it makes everything else I do easier.  One of my ways to give back was to make lavender-filled eye masks for the yoga participants who made donations to Cancer Support Community in return.

The Cooking for Wellness class has been the best option for Dave and me to do together. We have learned a lot about the way food can enhance the healing process. New recipes and kitchen tips keep adding spice to our lives, both literally and figuratively.  One of the best things we discovered together was a change in diet and lifestyle.  As a caregiver I felt empowered to DO SOMETHING!  That’s what I needed.  Dave had his treatment and recovery to occupy him, but I felt like a bystander until I found out I could cook our way to better health.

We live close to the Cancer Support Community facility, so we feel fortunate to be able to take advantage of the variety of programs with minimal travel time to get there and back.

I’ve found that there is strength in sharing the journey with others who are on their own road through treatment and into recovery.  It takes a lot of energy to pretend you are “fine” when you’re not, and that energy can be channeled into your healing once you plug into the resources available to you and find ways to process all that is going on with your body, your mind and your spiritual health.

We’re now in our fifteenth year of living with cancer, and we have made cancer support and education our mission since it is part of our life.  Prostate cancer is a couple’s disease. We are in it together.  Our coping, strategizing, researching treatment options and finding ways to reach out to others has been a team effort that has been enhanced and broadened by the resources and programs at Cancer Support Community and the people we’ve met there.  We keep finding new ways to give back, to be good listeners, to hold a hand or accompany someone else through a rough patch.

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