He’s a military vet, a community leader. And now that Eddie Wyatt is a Levine Cancer Institute lung cancer patient, people are uniting to support the man who’s supported so many others.

News, Your Health | 4 years ago

Eddie's Team: Supporting a Vet's Fight Against Cancer

Eddie Wyatt devoted his life to serving others. Now, others unite to serve him in his fight to lead a full and fulfilling life in spite of his diagnosis.

“Cancer knows no age or race,” says Eddie Wyatt of Stanley, NC. “It’s something I never expected to get, but no one knows how or why they’ve been diagnosed.”

Eddie was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer almost three and a half years ago. Cancer has changed his life since then, just as it changes the lives of so many others who receive this news. For the one in four people who will be diagnosed with cancer, the diagnosis can come as a shock – and the first steps to treatment can be emotional as much as physical. Eddie, for one, says he’s become more tired, but he’s grown more grateful, too.

Lung cancer is an especially hard diagnosis: Although advancements in treatment are accelerating rapidly, lung cancer has no cure yet. But even when a cancer can’t be cured, it can be treated with therapies and holistic care that maximize quality of life, allowing patients like Eddie to live longer, more fully and better than ever with cancer.

“Our job is to make sure patients understand that we have tools that can help in the fight,” says Edward Kim, MD, Eddie’s oncologist. “Once we can get folks past the shock and ready to go up against the common enemy, they’re in a better place.”

Eddie is a natural competitor, primed for battle. In high school, he was a star of the track team, setting school records. Even as an adult, he couldn’t resist the thrill of track; he returned to coach for 31 years, becoming so beloved that his cross country team persuaded East Gaston High School to dedicate its track to him. Eddie joined the military as well, serving in Vietnam, Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom. During his 35 years of service, he earned 26 military ribbons and medals.

Eddie doesn’t face his battle against lung cancer alone, however. He has a team supporting him throughout: his family, his church, his athletes and Levine Cancer Institute.

Supporting One Who’s Supported So Many Others

“Eddie’s a special guy,” says Dr. Kim. “He’s done so much for our country and his community. My job is to support him, to give him treatment options. We have multiple specialists helping him here at Levine Cancer Institute, and he sees his VA doctor as well. We’re all part of a team trying to help him.” 

Eddie and Dr. Kim have forged a special relationship.

“Dr. Kim is always positive – even when the news isn’t good,” Eddie says. “He lifts my spirits each time I visit. No matter what, he always has a plan.”

Several treatments have been used in the battle against Eddie’s cancer: radiation, chemotherapy, immunotherapy. But Dr. Kim realizes that treating the disease is only part of the team’s mission. In addition, they strive to make Eddie feel as strong and as positive as possible.

Dr. Kim is currently managing Eddie’s cancer with chemotherapy. Last month, Dr. Kim noticed that Eddie looked worn down, so he adjusted medications. “What you have to do is to assess everything – not just the drugs that you’re giving him but how he’s mentally feeling, how he’s physically feeling,” Dr. Kim says. “I saw him today, and he looked 100 percent better.”

Eddie’s team includes more than medical professionals. His grandchildren pray for him every day on their way to school; his relatives, friends and church family wear bracelets that read, “Stay Strong, Eddie.” Eddie says that their support and encouragement keeps him fighting.

Not only does Levine Cancer Institute provide care to patients, but they support and educate families and caregivers as well. This allows the patients and caregivers to focus on improving the patient’s health, rather than navigating the healthcare process. It’s more than treating a disease – it’s about empowering teams to work together to provide holistic care.

“That’s what’s special about LCI – we have our oncology department, we have our patient navigators, we have so many cancer specialists,” Dr. Kim says. “And those are the teammates we have to help someone, to lift them up, to get them through a rough time.”

Keeping Up the Fight Against Cancer

Eddie’s fight continues. He says that he’s gained an appreciation for each day, and he’s learning to make better health choices that help him feel stronger during his fight. After all, he’s got plenty to do. He loves attending car shows – antique car restoration is his favorite hobby – and getting together for special events with his family. He looks forward to feeling well enough to do some camping and traveling soon, too.

Eddie’s team continues to be there for him – whether providing medical treatments, speaking words of encouragement, or wearing bracelets of solidarity – joining to support the man who supported others for so long.