Alan Chase’s Story
"I want to prove it wrong. I want to prove cancer wrong."
When asked what someone may not know about him, Alan Chase grapples for a second, unsure. “Well,” he says, “I’m a Cubs fan, I’m a Bears fan, I’m a Bulls fan. I guess something someone might not know about me is—I’m a St. Louis Blues fan.”
He pauses for a moment, smiling, while everyone in the room laughs. “It’s weird. I grew up in the age before cable TV. If anyone remembers that, you turned on the TV and only had 10, 12 stations. Back then, one of the only stations we had around here was KPLR TV, which was out of St. Louis. They always played Blues games, and I loved hockey, so I watched the Blues. When Chicago finally decided to get in the market—it was too late, I was already a Blues fan.”
Alan’s love for sports runs deep, as does his wife’s love for him: Although Dara is a Cardinals fan, she wore a Cubs t-shirt while they watched the historic Cubs win in the 2016 World Series. That deep love and affection has proven even more true as Alan has struggled with cancer since December 2014.
“His personality drew me to him,” Dara says. “He makes me laugh. We have a good time together, complement each other, put up with each other—fought through a lot for a lot of years.” What went through her mind when they found out the diagnosis? “What didn’t,” she responds, chuckling. “Most days I want to kill him, but I wasn’t ready for something else to do it, you know?”
Alan and Dara have been together for 28 years. They met at the bar where Alan used to bartend. “If you ask her, she’ll tell you that a bar is the worst place to meet your significant other,” Alan says while Dara laughs. Alan also used to work in the electrical business, working with an electrical contractor in the warehouses. Having to quit work due to health issues was one of the hardest changes for Alan in recent years.
“I miss working,” he says. “Working is another outlet for yourself. When you stop working, you tend to feel like you’re not contributing anymore. It’s not necessarily my fault that I can’t do what I used to do, even though I want to.” Alan says that he tries not to let that bother him though. “What I’m doing, what I am—it is what it is.”
Alan has had the support of a loving family throughout his cancer journey. In addition to his wife, he has two daughters, Megan and Kyli, as well as other family members and friends. “It seems like once the word gets out that you’re sick, everyone kind of just gathers around you,” he says. Alan says that Dara has been instrumental in helping him stay positive and heal. “She’s always been there holding my hand, holding my hair back as it were,” says Alan, chuckling. “I think that as long as you got some people around you that support you and take care of your needs to the best of their ability, you can do whatever you need to do to keep moving.”
Alan was diagnosed with colorectal cancer on Christmas Eve in 2014. He had been struggling with stomach pain for a few weeks before a giant bout of pain took him to the emergency room. Next thing he knew, he was in surgery, and afterward the doctor told him he had cancer.
“It used to be when I was younger, cancer was something you didn’t hear a lot of. But when you did hear it, you thought it was the end of the world. Nowadays, it seems like it’s more treated and you tend to find people are surviving. I was a little freaked out, but I was going to fight it, so it didn’t matter.”
Part of that fight has been Alan’s care team at Springfield Clinic. Brittney Veenstra, APRN, CNP, says that she and her team at the Cancer Center look forward to seeing Alan when he comes in because he’s a lot of fun to be around—and he brings tootsie pops to the whole staff. “He takes everything in stride; he’s always open to what we need to do,” she says.
“It was a no-brainer coming to Springfield Clinic,” Alan says. “I didn’t know what to expect when we first started. But it’s been great. The doctors, the nurses, they’re all very cheerful and caring in a situation where they have to walk in and see people that probably aren’t going to be there next week or next month. For them to walk in with a smile on their face and listen to you and talk to you and just be supportive of you—I don’t know how they do it, but they’re great.”
Dara has also been impressed by Alan’s care at the Cancer Center. She knows that he doesn’t always want her at his chemo days so he can sit with his headphones on and watch TV. But she says that everyone she’s met on the oncology team has been very helpful and caring. “I’m very confident. And I feel comfortable being at work when he’s at a chemo appointment or something because I know he’s being taken care of.”
Alan knows that bad days are just part of the game when it comes to his cancer treatment. Dara is there to love him and pick up the slack, and he knows the rest of his family and friends are a phone call away. “I just kind of keep it within myself,” Alan says of his bad days. “I don’t want them to feel bad for me feeling bad. They got things to do; they got places to go. If I need them, I know they’re there.”
Dara says on Alan’s bad days, she just takes over his usual tasks around the house and supports him any way she can. “Sometimes if he’s having a down day or feels like he can’t do something, I’ll tell him, ‘Hey, we’re still here today, and I need you to suck it up and keep fighting for us.’ And he does. Knowing that there are people that care, people that still want you to still be here—that’s what makes my husband strong.”
Alan feels so supported by his family, providers and friends that he wants to support others who have to struggle through a cancer diagnosis and treatment. “Come talk to me,” he says. “I’ll hold your hand if you need it. I’ll walk you through it. It’s scary, it’s very scary. But come talk to me, I’ll help you through it if I need to, as someone who’s doing it.”
Dara agrees. “It doesn’t have to be the end. Don’t give up. Because every day is a gift, every day is a blessing, and tomorrow isn’t promised for anybody.” Dara believes her one-day-at-a-time attitude is what has helped both her and her husband through a lot of his cancer journey. “I think our motto is, ‘Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain.’ This is our rain. So, we do a lot of dancing.”
“I want to prove it wrong,” Alan says. “I want to prove cancer wrong. I’m waiting for the day when they can tell me I don’t have to come back and that things are good.” Although it’s been four years, Alan is feeling good most days and feels confident in his ability to kick his cancer once and for all. And with the support of his family and care at Springfield Clinic, he feels like he’s got a good chance.