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Beating the beast: Hedgecock tells story of survial

In 1983, Tony Hedgecock received two pieces of news from a doctor that no man wants to hear.

The first was that he had testicular cancer.

For this problem, there were three possible solutions: a combination of chemotherapy and radiation treatment, a prolonged stay at a cancer research center in Texas, or an operation known as Retroperitoneal Lymph Node Dissection.

The operation, more commonly called RPLND, is a rare one that involves the removal of all the retroperitoneal lymph nodes, which are located in the abdomen behind the major organs.

Mr. Hedgecock's surgery was successful, but the recovery period was difficult, as is expected with the procedure.

He had to eat by means of a tube for 11 days following the surgery and experienced other discomforts as well.

"I had respiratory problems; I coughed a lot," Mr. Hedgecock said. "And with 50 staples in my abdominal area, you can imagine the coughing hurt."

The respiratory problems are a common effect of the surgery, and a specialist came in to help with his breathing.

Once the immediate difficulties were over, Mr. Hedgecock had to return for CAT scans every couple of months for the first few years, then every six months for a while, then every year. Before long, the scans were deemed no longer necessary.

Yet, despite the success of his surgery and recovery, the best part of his experience has been in response to the other piece of bad news he received that day.

"I wasn't supposed to be able to have children," he said. "I have two kids with modern science and the help of God. That's the key."

Mr. Hedgecock and his wife, Donna, are the proud parents of Marie and William.

Because of his experience, Mr. Hedgecock has been deeply involved with cancer awareness, fundraising, and education.

He served as Dearing Baptist's team captain for the McDuffie County Relay for Life during the 2004 and 2005 relays.

He also got the opportunity to go to Pharmacia in Augusta - a program that no longer exists - and speak as a part of the Men's Health Month.

In addition, his brother was diagnosed with the same type of cancer in recent years, and Mr. Hedgecock used his own experiences to console and aid his brother.

"I think it was all in preparation for helping him get through it," he said.

One opportunity Mr. Hedgecock hopes to have is to share his experience with groups of young men.

"I really want to get into schools and talk to kids about this type of cancer," he said, "because that's when it most commonly shows up."

Web posted on Thursday, May 18, 2006

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