“My wife has faced cancer and beaten it twice, so I’ve always joked that I would out-live her.”
That isn’t a joke Kenny Youmans tells anymore, however, or at least not since last year.
It was then that he began to feel weak, lose energy, and drop weight rapidly.
Youmans said he first thought these symptoms were due to his age, his decreased appetite, or his exercise regimen.
After he had lost forty pounds in a relatively short amount of time, however, he decided to seek some medical advice.
Youmans was subsequently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and he was told he only had a short time to live, possibly as little as a few months.
“It’s devastating, to say the least,” said Youmans. “We all know we are going to die, but to have somebody tell you when you are likely to die is something else.”
In contrast to his wife, Youmans has never battled any type of cancer or other serious health problem in the past.
In fact, he said he has always lived a very active and healthy lifestyle, and has always been fairly careful about the food that he put in his body.
Those precautions made it even more difficult for Youmans to process his cancer diagnosis.
It seems, however, that genetics made the difference in this case, and not lifestyle, as a number of people in his family have died as a result of cancer, including his father and one of his uncles.
When he was diagnosed, Youmans was told that his cancer was already in stage four.
The chemotherapy that he has been receiving at Siteman Cancer Center has held his cancer in check, and even reduced its size somewhat, but Youmans has been told that an actual cure is not out there, and that his cancer will claim his life sooner or later.
Youmans said that the reports he was initially given by doctors caused him to temporarily lose hope, but he rallied and has thus far beaten the odds.
“I’m like a car with 200,000 miles,” said Youmans. “What matters is doing everything it takes to keep it on the road for as long as possible.”
Youmans has put the weight that he lost back on, and he said he feels pretty good most of the time, with the exception of fatigue, some tingling in his feet and his fingers, and some difficulty tasting food.
“If you saw me now and you didn’t know I had cancer, you wouldn’t know I was sick,” said Youmans.
Youmans, now 62, retired from his administrative role at Elsberry High School approximately ten years ago, and he and his wife now live in Wentzville, Missouri.
They still attend church in Elsberry, however, and Youmans said he has a lot of people from his church praying for him, as are friends from his past that have come out of the woodwork since his cancer diagnosis.
“I don’t see how people without faith in God can go through something like this, I really don’t,” said Youmans.
Youmans said that, despite his faith, he was initially reluctant to disclose his diagnosis to anyone outside his family.
“I consider myself a praying person, but I didn’t want to be prayed for,” said Youmans. “Eventually I came to view that as hypocritical.”
Youmans said he now allows people to pray for him, and he no longer has any reservations about sharing his diagnosis.
In the meantime, Youmans said he has no problem giving science the benefit of the doubt as well.
“They’re going to find a cure for this one day, and I hope I’m still around when they do,” said Youmans.