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Once facing grim diagnosis, cancer survivor now reaches out to others

Brian Angell of Thurman, who was diagnosed last May with stage four colon cancer, took a few moments Monday Sept. 26 to reflect on his journey with the illness, and how his outlook has changed. Angell is now headed back to work after 16 months of treatment and recovery.

Brian Angell of Thurman, who was diagnosed last May with stage four colon cancer, took a few moments Monday Sept. 26 to reflect on his journey with the illness, and how his outlook has changed. Angell is now headed back to work after 16 months of treatment and recovery. Photo by Thom Randall.

— With his daughters and wife Diane nearby involved in cheerleading practice, Brian Angell sat down on a park bench Monday Sept. 26 on the grounds of Warrensburg Elementary School, for a few moments of reflection.

The next day, he was headed back to work for the first time since a fateful day in May 2010, when he was doubled over with pain at work as a technician for Million Air, a fixed-base operator at Albany Airport that serves charter and private aircraft. On that day, Angell, in his early 50s, ended up at the hospital — and soon after had his appendix removed.

But after the emergency operation, doctors gave him grim news: he had stage four cancer of the colon and appendix, which had already spread to his lymph nodes.

The news was particularly gripping, he said, because his father died at age 52 of colon cancer.

The news sent his life into a tailspin, and a rigorous, gut-wrenching regimen of chemotherapy ensued. For months, he endured repeated series of hospital treatments followed by home-based chemotherapy in which chemicals were pumped into his arteries continuously for two days.

The regimen left him intermittently sick, weak and numb in the limbs. His treatments stopped in December, but his body and its immune system took time to recover, he said.

In the meantime, his life gained a new focus, he said as he gazed off into space.

He’s more aware and appreciative of bonds with family, friends and community, he said — and things that he once considered stressful, now seem merely trivial, he said.

“I now realize that every little moment is precious — being able to wake up, be with my kids, then drop them off to school feels so good.”

Soon after his diagnosis, Angell participated in a mission work trip with his daughter Julie and a group from the local St. Cecilia’s Catholic Church to Charlotte, North Carolina. They landscaped and painted a home for unwed mothers.

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