“My Voice” by Ray Hebert

Ray Hebert wearing his crazy chemo wig with his labs.

One day I got a note from the company that I worked for.  The gist was, to provide more benefits to you we have decided to double the amount we charge you for insurance and of by the way triple the deductible.  Oh I felt so thrilled to be offered this great opportunity.
So off I went to my Doctor to ask for every test known to medical kind before the end of the year.  Since I was not 50 at the time I was not technically a candidate for Colonoscopy.  That is until I seemed to remember some great uncle that might have suffered from colon cancer.  Ding, ding, ding.  Family history of potential colon cancer so off I was for a checkup.
Of course I expected nothing to come of it (heck, I don’t know anyone who went in expecting the end result to be cancer).  That was until I was in the recovery room and the doctor comes in and says we “found something suspicious”.  Heck, I am by nature suspicious so two days later I was under the knife having parts of me carved out.  When it was all done, the Doctor came in and said “I think we got it all” but we want you to go through chemotherapy to insure that we got it all.
My mother had lung cancer back in the day when it was expected that if the “C” word was brought up that it was a death sentence.  I remember being so depressed when I heard of her condition.  That was until she sat me down and said that this was like a game of poker.  You can either play the hand you are dealt or fold.  She decided to play her hand, and she did a masterful job of bluffing for 10 years.  And I could not have been more proud of her.
So I decided to play my hand.  For two years I went through various treatments.  I always did them on a Friday afternoon so I could work Monday thru Friday morning.  Then Friday afternoon a friend would pick me up and bring me to the clinic where I laid in a bed having poisons dripped into my body.  When each session was done I would go home and be put to bed.  I had already lost my hair so I didn’t have to worry about that effect.
This is where the fun started.  Years before I had rescued a sweet Chocolate Labrador named Shasta.  As I would lie in bed withering in pain she would jump up next to me and start licking me.  I would attempt to squirm or shoo her away.  She would have nothing of it, she would lick and lick and lick until I felt better.  She licked cancer out of my body.  It was either that or I was going to need serious skin grafts.  I am thankful that cancer decided to leave as I was not looking forward to having skin grafts done.
So that was over 5 years ago now.  Ms. Shasta has since crossed the Rainbow Bridge and I am certain is now helping someone else get over their battle.  I have decided to focus on raising funds for charities that need help.
Lance Armstrong is a great inspiration to me on a personal level.  I was at one time a world class athlete and to watch Lance battle on the slopes of le Alpe du Huez and punch the air was very inspirational.  It gave me hope that I could battle back as well.  I saw what he was doing with his foundation and decided to devote time to help charitable organizations.
In my case I decided to focus my efforts on helping Heart of Texas Labrador Rescue.  I firmly believe that I had great doctors and the best treatment plan, but without my beloved Shasta I doubt I would be here today writing these words.  I would also not be here if it were not for my beloved Shaq who slept each night with his head on my chest.  Every time I would wake up he would be there staring at me.
Believe it or not, our Fur-Friends suffer from many of the same diseases that we do.  HOTLab Rescue has had dogs come into the program that have suffered from cancer.  We never gave up on them, just as I never gave up on myself.  We got them the treatment they needed and many of them survived and thrived.  Including, our Pistol Pete who had bone cancer and was given 6 weeks.  That was over 4 years ago.
So my message to you is to never give up, get the best advice and treatment you can.  Play the cards that are dealt you, the alternative frankly sucks.  And when you are ready, give back to the community that helped you.  There are so many charities out there that would welcome your assistance.
Take care and Labbie licks to each of you.

*Ray was on the US Ski Team from 1977-1987 as a Cross Country Skier and from 1978-1982 he was also a pro cyclist on the Cycles Peugeot Team.