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Thu, Nov 30, 2023 at 02:09 PM

Dale Cooley: A Lung Cancer Journey

November is not just about Tom Turkey, but it also shines the spotlight on Lung Cancer Awareness Month and incredible journeys taken by lung cancer patients.

Dale Cooley emerges as a touching example of strength in the face of adversity. A math teacher at Alabama A&M, Dale's life took an unexpected turn when he was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer in April of 2022.

A seasoned smoker of over 50 years, Dale initially noticed the signs of shortness of breath. Concerned about his well-being, he visited the emergency room on April 4th. Initial tests, including blood work and x-rays, yielded clear results, providing a temporary relief. However, on April 8th, while teaching his class, Dale suddenly struggled to breathe even worse this time. He quickly left work and headed to Marshall Medical North, where a more comprehensive examination took place.

Dale vividly recalls the moment when Dr. Clark Alves entered his room with the diagnosis.

Dr. Alves, told him the X-ray is crystal clear, blood work looks good, but the CT scan shows stage 4 lung cancer. The scan revealed a tennis ball-sized mass nestled behind Dale's heart, presenting a tough challenge. Faced with numerous treatment options and facilities throughout North Alabama, Dale opted for the Marshall Cancer Care Center.

"We drove past this place for years and never really needed it,” Dale said. “Of course, we felt bad for the families that did need it, and just in one sentence we were now a part of this place."

Reflecting on his experience, Dale expressed gratitude for the compassionate care not only extended to him but also to his wife, Connie.

"I get emotional thinking about what this place means to me,” he said. “From day one, they treated not only me great but they treated Connie with so much care and compassion. There’s not a person in this building that does not deserve to be here."

Dale began his aggressive treatment journey on June 3rd, 2022, receiving 27 treatments spaced three weeks apart. Remarkably, after the first four sessions, the cancerous mass exhibited an 84% reduction, a testament to the dedication and expertise of Marshall Cancer Care Center and his medical team. However, the reality remains that the cancer will never be operable or fully eradicated.

Walking into the Marshall Cancer Care Center, Dale is greeted not only by medical professionals but by a family-like feel.

"When I walk in the building, I get about 15 hugs before I receive my treatment,” he said. “They just love you here. They are our cancer family.”

For Dale, each day is an opportunity to embrace life in all its facets.

"With cancer, it's either the beginning of the end, or the first day of the rest of your life,” he said. “We all have our last day, but I want to make sure I squeeze everything out of a day I can."

His unwavering belief in the decision to choose the Marshall Cancer Care Center echoes in his words, "There is 0% doubt in my mind that we did not do the right thing by coming to this cancer center."

Beyond his personal battle, Dale draws strength from his family both blood related and family-like bonds he has made over the years.

His wife Connie, with whom he has shared over 25 years of marriage, has two adult children, along with grandchildren and a great-grandchild. Together, they navigate the challenges, cherishing the moments and embracing the love that binds them as they continue their journey, one day at a time.