Brian Angell of Thurman, who was diagnosed last May with stage four colon cancer, took a few moments Monday Sept. 26 to reflect on his journey with the illness, and how his outlook has changed. Angell is now headed back to work after 16 months of treatment and recovery.
With his daughters and wife Diane nearby involved in cheerleading practice, Brian Angell sat down on a park bench Monday Sept. 26 on the grounds of Warrensburg Elementary School, for a few moments of reflection.
The next day, he was headed back to work for the first time since a fateful day in May 2010, when he was doubled over with pain at work as a technician for Million Air, a fixed-base operator at Albany Airport that serves charter and private aircraft. On that day, Angell, in his early 50s, ended up at the hospital — and soon after had his appendix removed.
But after the emergency operation, doctors gave him grim news: he had stage four cancer of the colon and appendix, which had already spread to his lymph nodes.
The news was particularly gripping, he said, because his father died at age 52 of colon cancer.
The news sent his life into a tailspin, and a rigorous, gut-wrenching regimen of chemotherapy ensued. For months, he endured repeated series of hospital treatments followed by home-based chemotherapy in which chemicals were pumped into his arteries continuously for two days.
The regimen left him intermittently sick, weak and numb in the limbs. His treatments stopped in December, but his body and its immune system took time to recover, he said.
In the meantime, his life gained a new focus, he said as he gazed off into space.
He’s more aware and appreciative of bonds with family, friends and community, he said — and things that he once considered stressful, now seem merely trivial, he said.
“I now realize that every little moment is precious — being able to wake up, be with my kids, then drop them off to school feels so good.”
Soon after his diagnosis, Angell participated in a mission work trip with his daughter Julie and a group from the local St. Cecilia’s Catholic Church to Charlotte, North Carolina. They landscaped and painted a home for unwed mothers.
His wife Diane said he had made the commitment to go, and he wanted to participate to help others in need despite his impending treatment.
A few weeks after his chemotherapy began, he decided to reach out to others who had also been diagnosed with cancer.
Fighting recurring nausea and fatigue, he for months visited other cancer victims, to give them some comradeship and provide solace.
“If someone with cancer hears from someone who got through the treatments, it is a heck of an encouragement boost,” Angell said. “It’s like, ‘If he can do it, I can too.’”
Angell added he is now also more attuned of other’s afflictions after experiencing an outpouring of caring and concern from others in the community. In October, people from all walks of life filled the Masonic Hall for a fundraiser to boost the Angell family’s spirit and finances.
“People have been so thoughtful and helped us out so much,” Angell said. “This support from the community helped us out tremendously.”
Experiencing that support, he said, prompted him to reach out more often to others in need, including attending fundraising events for people facing hardships, like his family had.
“Before, I may have thought I was too busy to go, and now I make sure I attend,” he said.
Angell noted that his two daughters, Julie, 15 and Kelly 11, both helped out at home when he was bedridden. Julie cut the grass for her dad, while Kelly took on extra chores.
They both kept quiet so their father could sleep or rest. They also devoted extra efforts on their schoolwork, Angell recalled.
After finishing with her cheerleading practice Monday, Julie Angell said she had been worried about losing her dad, as she knew her grandfather died from the same malady.
Her dad’s sickness weighed on her, she said.
“I missed birthdays and holidays with him,” she said, noting he was hospitalized over Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.
“But it’s really cool to have him totally back now,” she added, breaking into a grin.