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Smiling headshot of Ken, tongue cancer survivor, caregiver and volunteer.

Meet Ken

Tongue Cancer Survivor Volunteer and Caregiver

"Courage, it just took courage."

Cancer has turned and twisted Ken’s life in many ways.

At age 59, it attacked him directly in the form of stage 4 tongue cancer.

Not long after that, his wife, Marlys, who never left his side during the tough days of radiation and chemotherapy, was diagnosed with multiple myeloma.

Before he knew it, cancer had turned him from a fighter, to a survivor to a caregiver.

“My whole life changed and I really started to show some sympathy,” Ken says, “I think what really helped me is having cancer myself and [knowing] what my wife had done for me.”

The tables turned again when two weeks before his wife passed away she thanked him for all he had done for her.

Knowing the courage it takes to fight cancer as a patient – and a caregiver – Ken decided he wanted to share that determination with other patients at Moffitt Cancer Center.

He wanted to turn his experience into a positive.

A volunteer since 2012, Ken spends his Tuesdays in the radiation center where he spent so much time as a patient. “Since I’ve been through it I can give them some idea of how and what radiation is all about,” Ken says.

He’s appreciative and proud when patients came up to him and thank him for being there with his experienced encouragement. For Ken, volunteering has become his “therapy.”

Nine years in remission, Ken still feels the pain of his loss, but he remains bolstered by compassion and sympathy.

“I really miss [Marlys] but my support is doing what I’m doing and helping people and that makes my life better,” Ken says. “It made me a different person.”