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Cancer survivor: keeps going strong

Sam Wilbanks is surviving colon cancer with help from the Lord above and a good wife at home.

Guest Writer

Well, this is it. We are down to the wire. This Friday at 6 p.m. at the Emery High School Track, come one, come all. Every person counts whether you are on a team or not. Relay for Life is the best opportunity Emery County has to make a significant impact on the devastating effects of cancer. Your support can be monetary, physical, or emotional. All of these things are crucial to the success of our Relay. Look around at your family, friends, and neighbors who have faced their mortality, see their strength. Reflect on those in your life who made a difference to a loved one while entrenched in the battle. Cherish the memories of the brave souls who were engulfed by the disease. Won't you join us in the fight for a cure?

This week we highlight the life of a Pastor, a cowboy, a poet, and a survivor. Sam Wilbanks is closing in on the magic number 62... looking at retirement so he can get busy doing what he feels driven to do - preach. It took some convincing for this article as Sam shies away from the spotlight at almost all costs. He felt the call to preach as a young man but was able to push it aside, out of his mind and his day.

He didn't want to be a preacher, and what's more, his wife, Vicki, didn't want to be a preacher's wife. Sam discovered soon enough that he would never be content no matter where he was or what he was doing until he answered the Lord's call. Destiny or divine intervention, either way the end result was a Preacher with a cowboy hat.

Having the faith that comes with a preacher's territory proved more useful and effective early in 2007 when Sam went to the doctor for a colonoscopy, and then a second colonoscopy, and yet a third. He knew he suffered with a common irritation, but he also knew bleeding was not normal. During the colonoscopies there were several polyps found and removed. Unable to extract them all, the procedure was repeated. A tool that looks similar to a lasso is hooked over the polyp and cinched tight to remove the growth. There was one large polyp the doctor couldn't even get the lasso over. Other methods were employed for successful removal.

The biopsies were completed while Vicki was away tending to her ill father. Sam got a call early in his work day at the Hunter plant to "come right now" to see the doctor. If it weren't for the Lord at his side, Sam would have heard the dreaded phrase alone, "You've got cancer." The doctor wanted to act immediately and perform surgery within a couple of days. Sam refused feeling he could wait for Vicki to return. The doctor's rebuttal was simply, "Time is of the essence."

Sam was struck with a passage from the New Testament, Philippians 1:21, "To die is to gain, but to live is Christ." This scripture brought him the confidence and peace he needed to tell the doctor he would wait. Sam credits the "Good Lord" for the calm security he has carried with him throughout his encounter with cancer. He frequently drifted to a bible hymn called, "Fret not," to redirect his worries when they arose. Sam went on short term disability from work in order to recover from having one foot of his intestine removed. His surgeon told him, he "was a very lucky man. If it had been a little worse it probably would have been fatal." Sam didn't believe him then and doesn't still. He claims it had nothing to do with luck and everything to do with "the Lord's hand." Even while Sam was confined to the hospital for 11 days with complications instead of the standard five, he worked hard and "gave God the glory for being virtually pain-free" through it all.

In fact, Sam felt so good that he went for a walk when he got back to Ferron. A walk that taught him just how much he had really been through as he ran out of energy and ended up sitting on a fence for "quite some time" before he could get back home. Sam didn't have chemo or radiation, but he had a colonoscopy every six months for two years and now goes every year until about 2014.

Colon cancer is frequently fatal as it isn't detected early due to the nature and location of its hiding places. Screening is recommended to begin at age 50. Having a colonoscopy could be one of the most important birthday gifts you ever give yourself. Sam didn't leave it up to luck; he pushed it out of his life with help from his Higher Power.

Come be a part of something wonderful. June 11 at 6 p.m. at the High School track. Bring your smile, your family, and your friends for fun and fellowship.

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