Having Chemo Treatments Among ‘Family’

Barry Taylor wants to dance again.

Before October 2019, Barry Taylor was the epitome of good health.

The Eau Claire man did all the right things – annual health exams, prostate exams, colonoscopies – everything medical professionals recommend as a means to proactively take care of himself. He even got plenty of exercise by dancing his way around the country as part of his passion for travel.

But all of that couldn’t ward off the rare blood and bone cancer called multiple myeloma – a cancer that affects nearly one percent of the population, or about one in 132 people.

Dancing is how he met his good friend MaryAnn who is helping him through chemo treatments. Together, they visit the Prevea Cancer Center at HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital each week. Barry knows the chemo is necessary, but said it completely wipes out his energy.

“The cancer is manageable, but now my immune system is weak so I don’t want to get a virus, and the chemo just takes the wind out of my sails,” said Barry. “And I have kayaks and canoes and I’m a fly fisherman, so it’s hard to put that on hold.”

Prevea Cancer Center at HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital is accredited by the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer. For more information, call 715.717.3300.

Despite setbacks, Barry’s positivity seems to bounce off him, infecting all the nurses who see him on appointment days. In fact, his medical appointments always seem to turn into a family visit.

“The people are so good to me,” said Barry. “I don’t have family of my own, but when I come here it’s like the family I never had.”

At age 77, Barry is determined to travel again, and dance again, but even if his do-si-do has to slow, he considers himself the luckiest man around.

“I’m in the best place I can be for care, and I’ve lived a great life,” he said. “I see people in wheelchairs and people who are in bed and hooked up to IVs – they’d give every penny they have to have my health and walk out of here, but they can’t. I’m lucky and I know I’m lucky.”

Barry’s diagnosis means he will be on chemo the rest of his life. He hopes it’s the pill form so he can live his best life with whatever time remains.

“In life you go through doors and you don’t know when that door opens if it’s a good one or a bad one, but you just keep going and that’s the whole point – you keep moving forward – and I’ve got five years or better to do that,” he said.

For more information about cancer care services, visit www.sacredhearteauclaire.org/Medical-Services/Cancer-Care