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Young father says cancer diagnosis changed life for the better

by on June 14, 2018 12:17 PM

In life, most people will encounter a few transformative events that tend to change one’s perspective and sense of priorities. Becoming a parent is one. Surviving a serious health crisis is another. At the young age of 24, Ian Senior experienced both of these life-altering events at the same time, and he will be the first one to say he is a better man because of it. 

Senior and his wife, Stacy, announced their first pregnancy to their family on Thanksgiving Eve 2013. Later that night, Senior noticed a lump on the side of his neck.

“He showed it to me and I said, ‘That should probably be checked out,’” Stacy said. “Things just progressed from there.”

After ultrasounds, a CT scan and, finally, surgery to remove the lump, Ian received his official diagnosis: Stage 2 B cell non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Treatment began under the care of Dr. Nilesh Patel at Geisinger Scenery Park in State College.

“Dr. Patel was fantastic,” said Stacy. “He was wise enough to send us (to a lymphoma specialist) for a second opinion just to make sure that this was something that he felt comfortable caring for, which we thought was really humble.”

Ian’s treatment included bone marrow testing, port placement, PET scans and six rounds of chemotherapy. Through it all, the Seniors remained positive.

“We never really doubted that I was going to make it. There wasn’t anything that was going to stop us from getting where we wanted to go,” Ian said. “What definitely helped keep me around was I had something to give me extra motivation to get better.”

That “something” was, of course, the upcoming birth of the couple’s son, Owen, who arrived on July 10, 2014 — exactly one month after Ian received his last treatment. Despite warnings that they may not be able to have another child due to the lasting effects of the chemo, the couple welcomed daughter Maura 18 months ago.

Becoming a cancer survivor and a father has led Ian to make some big changes, including giving him the courage to leave a job working in commercial concrete at HRI Inc. in order to start his own business: Ian Senior & Son Construction, which he runs from the couple’s Curwensville home.

“I would say it (cancer) was a blessing in disguise because I probably never would have left my job to start my own business, and I really wanted to have my own business ever since I was in college,” he said. “It makes it a little easier to have a family life, because I can say,

‘I’m done at 5 today; I’ll be home for dinner.’”

“That’s just kind of where we want our energy going right now,” said Stacy, who works part-time in the employee health department at Geisinger Patton Forest. “It was sort of restructuring how we go about living and prioritizing things. ... We just really soak in these times with Owen and Maura, and we’re just grateful that we have them.

The Seniors hope people will take away several lessons from their story. They feel their experience can serve as a reminder to men to listen to their loved ones when it comes to taking care of their health.

“If she hadn’t told me to get it checked out, I would have just thought I pulled a muscle in my neck or something and I wouldn’t have done anything about it,” Ian said.

Also, they said it is important for those facing a similar diagnosis to reach out to others for support.

“We had two church families and a huge system of people praying for us,” Stacy said. “People would shovel our driveway because I was pregnant and he was sick. They made meals for us, and they just showed us how much we were loved and cared for. Just having people to be there for us was really important.”

Ultimately, Stacy said, “I think it (Ian’s cancer) made us a stronger couple for sure, and stronger parents. Hopefully, people that hear our story find hope. If you surround yourself with people that care about you and pray for you, that’s really all you need.”

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