Since Vince Tarantola’s diagnosis of advanced lymphoma in 2014, he has spent every morning watching the sun come up over the mountains with his pups, Spike and Stassi.
“Seeing the sunrise every morning is important to me - you made it to another day with all of the challenges you face. It’s a sign of hope and possibilities.”
Now cancer-free for more than seven years, Vince never let lymphoma own him. “I was always in control of cancer. I never felt like it was in control of me.”
Vince was mourning the loss of his beloved mom, Philomena, who died from bladder cancer four months earlier, when he started to notice changes in his body. His stomach ached. He woke in the night drenched in sweat. Something wasn’t right.
Diagnostic tests determined Vince, then 46, had malignant non-Hodgkin lymphoma, which had spread to his stomach and abdomen. This type of cancer starts in the white blood cells, which are an important part of the body’s immune system.1
When the first doctor he saw suggested emergency middle-of-the-night surgery, Vince stayed calm. He asked instead to see his mother's oncologist, who recommended a different course - medication to treat the cancer, without surgery.
“You have to be your own advocate in life - mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually. You have a say in this. Don’t ever give up hope. Cancer is a formidable adversary but it doesn’t mean it has to win. Get up every morning and give it hell.”
The months that followed diagnosis were not easy, but Vince’s positivity and resourcefulness carried him through. The two sweet dogs that he and his wife Yvette had rescued from the streets provided solace and companionship. During challenging days, Spike would snuggle with Vince on the living room floor.
Vince, who has been in remission since 2015, never misses a follow-up appointment with his oncologist. Blood monitoring and scans have gone from every few months to once a year.
“As we know, catching anything early is critical, so make sure you don’t put off your doctor appointments. Get your blood work done. And if something is just not feeling right in between appointments, reach out to your doctor. No one knows your body better than you.”
As part of his recovery, Vince mentors other cancer patients. "It was after I lost my friend, Eric, who was diagnosed with brain cancer a few months after my diagnosis. I thought, 'I lost my mom and my best friend. People around me are passing away. Why am I still here?' That's when the thought came into my head that I'm supposed to be here to help pay it forward."
Vince shares tips on minimising treatment side effects, and encourages patients to exercise and eat healthfully when possible. He provides inspirational quotes from Rocky – his favourite movie ‒ and giggle-worthy jokes via text message.
“I believe I am here to make a difference in people’s lives. A cancer diagnosis isn’t what it used to be. Don’t let it define you. There are options. There are possibilities.There is research. There is hope. There is a ton of support and you are not alone.”