Cancer survivor thankful to be alive and healthy

NEWSCENTER 23
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POSTED: Thursday, November 28, 2013 - 4:44pm

UPDATED: Monday, December 2, 2013 - 7:46am

Thanksgiving is the time of year to reflect on all the things we are thankful for.  One man is especially grateful to be alive and well today after he was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer shortly after graduating from college.

He shares his story with Newscenter 23.

David Contreras Jr. is a 26-year-old Valley resident who is counting his blessings after receiving devastating news four years ago.  As a college graduate working in Arkansas at the time, his world turned upside down when doctors diagnosed him with Stage 4 cancer.

"I don't think any 22-year-old expects to hear those words," Contreras said.  "I don't think anyone expects to hear those words, and so that was really hard to take."

Contreras had previously had his appendix removed, and it was then that doctors also extracted a cyst.  But a CAT scan a few months after that operation revealed cancer in his abdominal cavity.

From there, Contreras began to question what would happen next, knowing the journey ahead wouldn't be easy.

"It's a very rare cancer, not many people get it," said Contreras.  "Not many people survive from it, there's not a lot of studies.  [Doctors] couldn't operate, they didn't know what to do.  Nothing looked very bright, there was nothing really to look forward to."

Four years later, the emotions are still overwhelming for Contreras's father as he recalls the day his son told him that he was diagnosed with cancer.

"I remember him telling me 'well, if that's the way it has to happen...'" David Contreras Sr. said, fighting back tears.

Despite the pain and fear that comes with a cancer diagnosis, Contreras says that his battle to beat the disease was fueled by his family's love and encouragement.

"My family was able to be there for me and support me through it and just remember to, they reminded me to just trust in God and not to think about the negative stuff," said Contreras.

His mother, Juanita Contreras, explains the challenge of staying strong in light of what her son was enduring.

"It is hard, but you feel the strength to keep on and to gain words of encouragement that everything is gonna be fine, that you'll get through the journey," she said.

That journey involved more that six months of chemotherapy and two separate operations, but now Contreras is fortunate to be able to make this declaration:

"I'm finally cancer free."

On this day of thanksgiving--and every day for that matter--the Contreras family is focusing on the positive outcome of such a difficult experience.

"Different perspective, all of us, so it has been a growing experience to say the least," said Contreras Sr.

"Even though the illness hurt us, it also brought us closer together, and it was definitely an experience worth learning," Contreras said.  "[I'm] very thankful to my family being there with me."

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