Alan Girard, Cancer Survivor

 


Alan Girard of Mt. Zion has had the toughest year of his life, but he’s grateful he is here today to share his story.

“Sometimes we forget how short life is, and certainly there are no guarantees on tomorrow. I came very close to finding that out this spring,” he said.

The 64-year-old has COPD, a progressive lung disease that makes it hard for him to breathe. But something else was affecting him, but he didn’t know what it was. It was so bad it prevented him from visiting his mother in her final days of life, something that breaks his heart.

“My mother was the greatest mom in the whole world,” said Girard. “She was in a nursing home in her final days. And I was so sick that I could not get to see her.”

Just days after his mom’s passing, Girard learned he had colon cancer and would need surgery. It was a very difficult time for the entire family.

Girard had surgery in March 2017, and his family gathered in the surgical waiting room at HSHS St. Mary’s Hospital as he had the procedure. Girard and his wife have ten kids between them and seven grandchildren. They were all very concerned about what the outcome would be.

Girard recalls feeling he wasn’t going to make it through. “I remember praying to the good Lord that if that’s what was meant to be, then okay. But I had some reservations and probably tried to do some deal-making with Him. I wasn’t quite ready to go.”

One of Girard’s daughter, Alyson Webb, is a nurse practitioner in the gastroenterology department at St. Mary’s. He considers her his guardian angel. Webb’s trust and confidence in her St. Mary’s team is what made her feel certain they would provide the best care possible for her father. “I want all patients treated like family, and I think my team does a great job of that,” said Webb. “It’s definitely different being on the other side. It gives you greater appreciation for what people go through if they get a diagnosis of cancer.”

Girard is happy to report the surgery went well. His cancer had not spread beyond the part of his colon that was removed.

Dr. Preeti Jhawar is a gastroenterologist at St. Mary’s who treated Girard.

“Our goal is to help patients any way we can,” said Dr. Jhawar. “With some patients, it’s small things you help them with… And sometimes it’s big things like cancer where you’re able to find something, diagnose it, cure it, treat it and help the patient get back to normal. It’s an amazing feeling to be part of that.”

Dr. Jhawar says it is very important to get screened for colon cancer.

“Colon cancer screening is supposed to start at age 50, but if there’s a family history, you may need to be screened sooner,” he said. ”I urge everyone to get screened. You’re usually very comfortable during the procedure, and it can be life-saving like it was for Alan.”

Girard says the whole experience helped him gain a greater perspective on life.

“Dedication to the job is important, but there’s a balance you have to strike in life. Don’t sell those relationships short because at the end of the day, family is number one. Always.”

Girard’s family is happy that he’s here to share his infinite wisdom and enjoy life with them because he’s a husband, father and grandfather who they love very much.

To learn more about the surgical services available at St. Mary’s, please visit the surgical services web page. We thank the Girard family for sharing their experience.