Skip to Content

Published on May 29, 2015

Rehabilitation Aids Recovery for Cancer Survivor

Keith StairsKeith Stairs’ journey with cancer began two years ago when he got sick, felt rundown, and found a lump in his neck. Keith’s diagnosis of squamous cell carcinoma doesn’t seem like something most of us would call a blessing, but Keith considers it just that. He feels like God used this tool to tap him on the shoulder and tell him he had more that he wanted him to do in this world.

A biopsy led to Keith’s shock of being told he had cancer, followed by a series of very challenging procedures which included having a feeding tube inserted in his stomach, having six teeth removed to enable him to get radiation treatment, and then both radiation and chemotherapy. In the process, he lost 90 pounds and had to endure some tough side effects.

Keith uses the word “amazing” to describe Dr. Sarah Squire, his radiation oncologist, and the treatment she spearheaded for him at the Cone Health Cancer Center. His nurses provided the helpful explanations he needed, and his radiation therapists were like family to him during this time. Keith also gives due credit to his wife, who is a 10-year breast cancer survivor, and of course, to God for seeing him through all this.

Keith StairsAfter the challenges of treatment, Keith faced yet another one. He developed lymphedema, a swelling condition, in his neck. Dr. Squire knew that there was help for this problem at Cone Health Outpatient Cancer Rehab, where our therapists are certified in treating it. Marti Smith and the other therapists there first helped Keith with getting the swelling under control. Then, Keith says, Marti really helped him learn how to live after having cancer, how to survive, and how to thrive.

Like many others, Keith struggled with fatigue from the lifesaving treatment he received. Exercise is proven to help this, so Marti taught Keith what to do to gain energy and get healthy again. She helped him realize the importance of incorporating exercise into his daily routine.

Keith StairsNow, Keith makes time for a three mile walk every day, for core strengthening, and also for activities to take control of his lymphedema. He knows that he can’t think of exercise as something he does just when he gets around to it any more. Keith says that the difference exercise has made for him is remarkable!

Keith has many reasons to live, including his wife Diane of 36 years, his eight-year-old granddaughter Nova, and his two-year-old grandson Calvin. He looks at life as a balance now; starting each day with prayer and scripture, working fewer hours, including downtime in his daily schedule, and of course, exercising.