Steve Crump details his journey three years after being diagnosed with cancer
Meaningful peaks and deep valleys define this journey.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Three years ago, five words changed my life. The words “Mr. Crump you have cancer” hit me like a sledgehammer.
So much to process in a compressed amount of time.
Give or take a couple of hours around 9 p.m. on the Saturday night of July 21, 2018 came word from an emergency room doctor at Atrium Health Northeast in Concord, North Carolina that I was confronting the big C - colon cancer.
Around 9 a.m. on the Sunday morning of July 22, 2018 a member of the medical staff at Atrium Health Northeast brought the word “hospice” into the dialogue as it related to my condition.
Meaningful peaks and deep valleys define this journey.
My wife Cathy and I succeeded in getting a second opinion.
Dr. David Kooby of the Winship Cancer Center at Emory University Hospital agreed to take on my fight. His words were most encouraging. Dr. Kooby’s introduction was simply “Mr. Crump your condition is very treatable.”
Kooby’s plan was to proceed with what he called “baby steps”.
Chemo treatments were scheduled to start in Concord during Aug. 2018 and surgery would be carried out in Atlanta that following November.
That plan never came to fruition.
Not just cancer, but Mrsa before the end of that summer had also invaded my body. Spending 51 days in the hospital was no easy task.
Survival meant relying on the lifesaving tools of a ventilator, dialysis and a feeding tube all at the same.
Meanwhile, my right lung had become infected and collapsed.
Atrophy impacted my legs and I couldn’t walk.
Moving around meant being strapped to a gurney, mobile hospital bed, wheelchair and portable basket.
Home only came after a series of tests for social workers ranging from a complete diagram of steps, doors, and access to bathrooms.
Home also served as a place of sanctuary and safety.
I needed uninterrupted sleep and rest.
Understanding the importance of knocks on the hospital room door for temperature and blood pressure checks along with I.V. sticks is vital, but they often came too fast and much too frequently.
So much has happened over the last three years, and that makes it hard to share parts of this story in a symmetrical orderly fashion so please forgive my dancing around this narrative.
I would like to think that I am a man of faith and take great pride in the fact that I’m fifth generation Roman Catholic and trace my family’s roots to the parish where my great-great-grandparents worshipped as slaves during the 1800s in New Hope Kentucky.
There have been meaningful visits and lengthy phone conversations from priests including Fathers Basile Sede of my parish Our Lady Of Consolation, Wilbur Thomas, Frank O’Rourke, Ed Branch, Mo West, John Judie, Anthony Chandler, and Chris Rhodes along with Dave Zettel and Ron Domhoff of my beloved Trinity High School.
My former grade school nuns continue to remember me in daily rosaries, and I’ve prayed through Novenas to Saint Peregrin the patron saint for those with cancer concerns.
Throughout my life, I’ve held on to an ecumenical mindset and have found solace, strength, and peace by wandering into other denominations and praying with friends like Reverend J.R. Covington of Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, Reverend Larry Whitley of Matthews, North Carolina’s Mount Moriah Baptist Church, and Reverend Ed Newberry of Charlotte’s Memorial Presbyterian. He married Cathy and me.
Not enough credit can be given to my good friend Reverend Ricky Woods of First Baptist Church West. He has driven my wife and I to treatments in Atlanta, brought food to our home prepared by his wife Annette, and walked with me during my moments of physical therapy.
It has been moving to receive hundreds of encouraging posts on social media along with many cards and letters.
I am still alive because of an amazing team of doctors. My oncologists Dr. Mohammad Salem, Dr. Dennis Vrochides, and Dr. Joshua Hill of Atrium Health and Dr.David Kooby of Atlanta’s Emory Hospital.
Going the extra mile in this journey is the team of dedicated nurses and staffers at Concord’s Levine Cancer Institute who have handled much of treatment several days a week.
I would be remiss if I didn’t give mad props to Vanessa Aldrige. She’s been my outstanding home healthcare nurse.
Friendships have been renewed and redefined as a result of this illness.
I am moved by the out-of-town visitors who have come to our home and spent nights at the hospital. Friends like former network news correspondent Randall Pinkston, Byron Pitts of ABC Nightline, and a steady stream of phone calls from Bill Whitaker of CBS 60 minutes.
My WBTV family has gone above and beyond in providing professional support from resources to do meaningful work in a nurturing environment, despite the challenges of COVID-19.
During my hospital visit in Atlanta, it was great spending time with members of my Eastern Kentucky University family. There was a knock at the door. It wasn’t a doctor or nurse but my freshman roommate Glen Raglin.
There was another knock at the door from EKU. This time it was Ricardo Thomas who I’ve known since high school. Along with Terry Powers. The ladies of Alpha Kappa Alpha even showed up. Kitty Wright and Charlcye Kimbrough came with their husbands who are also EKU grads.
High highs have occurred through this experience. They’ve come through completing three documentaries and two news specials connected to social justice.
I would call throwing out the first pitch at a Charlotte Knights game a major mountain top experience, and being named the 2019 Educator of the Year by the Charlotte Post Foundation.
My hometown of Louisville and native state of Kentucky have not let me down through this experience. It has been an honor to cover two of the last three Kentucky Derbys for our sister station WAVE-3 News and being inducted into the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame in the 2020 class.
Family has not failed me. When the word got out that I was not well. The question was is it the family disease? Cancer has taken the lives of my mother, grandmother, and four first cousins, and most recently the first grandchild of my generation has started chemo treatments for breast cancer.
I thought that it’s wise to take the liberty of saving the best for last. I’m talking about my wife Cathy. She has gone above and beyond by spending nights in the hospital, preparing meals, dispensing medicine among the tasks she’s carried out as an amazing caregiver just to name a few things she has selflessly taken on.
Three years later, it’s not just one thing but several factors that have kept me here since hearing those five words.
Faith, friendship, family, great medical professionals in two states, and the thoughts and prayers of long-time friends and total strangers who are kind enough to care.
Thanks to all of you for shaping my attitude of gratitude.
And on July 30 at Queens College join me for the kickoff of 24 Hours of Booty. I’ll be in the pace car.
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