Written by Karin McCay
The video in this story was provided by Photojournalist, John Berry, KCBD
and Matt Dufilho, UMC.
LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - Donnie and Stephanie Allison will tell you they're richly blessed. Not just
because of 5-year-old Zachary, although he is clearly a blessing to them…
and not just because Donnie has found success as a singer and songwriter.
Both Donnie and Stephanie will tell you Donnie's cancer has given them a
new purpose in life.
Most people know Donnie Allison as the entertainer, a regular headliner
at the Cactus Theatre…the man who can play Elvis and bring back Buddy Holly.
But there are a few special people who know another side of Donnie. Lupe Sanchez,
who greets people in the Admissions Office at the Southwest Cancer and Research
Center, says "He tells them, ‘Don't be afraid. Everything's great' and he's very upbeat."
Willa Tolentino, a chemo nurse, adds, "We tell him ‘Sit down, Mr. Allison!'
but, he won't sit down." That's because Donnie is up fighting cancer the best way
he knows how…by helping other cancer patients.
Willa says, "He must go in every patient chair and talk to them and reassure them."
It would seem to most a cruel twist of fate that Donnie, a singer, first developed
cancer of the tongue. Surgery to remove the cancer left him with no voice at all for
months. His wife, Stephanie says, "The music has nothing to do with it. We feel so
blessed that he can even speak." Donnie is just as proud that the skilled surgeon who
removed that cancer left a beautiful (as in hardly noticeable) scar.
Donnie is quick to set the record straight about his illness. He does not have
Lung cancer. He has head and neck cancer that spread to the lungs. That is very
different and easier to manage than if his cancer had started in the lungs. Even so,
it has been a long road back to the stage, a "Celebration of Life" as he called one recent
But somewhere along the way, Donnie found another calling. "I've had times when I felt
so sick and didn't even want to be around somebody", he says. "I'll ask God to put
somebody in my path that I could be of service to. And next thing I know, I feel like
running a marathon." Running has actually become good therapy for Donnie. He tells
other patients not to put off life because of cancer treatments. That is why he has
continued running...and singing...on country roads even during weeks of chemo.
But, Donnie's voice reaches a different kind of audience at UMC's Southwest
Cancer and Research Center. That's where Donnie is more than a patient. He is also
a proud member of the Patient Advisory Committee. He explains his newfound mission
like this, "You see somebody. They think they're being punished. I just want to say, Hey!
He doesn't work that way. He didn't give you cancer. But if you give Him the chance,
He will use it to do the most amazing things.'" Donnie says it is already amazing that
he has kicked cancer twice. He says he's beginning to realize that his problem may be
a so-called "Chronic Cancer" that comes and goes into remission, thanks to good
doctors and powerful chemotherapy.
Chemotherapy works by using chemicals to destroy cancer cells. But sometimes
it kills healthy cells too, especially fast growing ones like your hair and blood cells. So
the list of possible side effects is long and scary. Donnie understands that and relates
to other patients who might be afraid of the chemo more than the cancer.
He describes it like this, "They hook you up and you say, ‘What's gonna happen? Do I feel
something? Is that a side effect? The lists of side effects they give you are not necessarily yours until you get them. And you don't have to get any of them. Or you might get all
of them. Everybody is different."
But as much as Donnie helps other patients, he says just talking to them has
been good medicine for him. Just walk around the cancer center and you'll hear Donnie
sharing information about products that worked for him or comparing side effects that
he's treating for himself.
After nearly three years of fighting cancer, Donnie and Stephanie agree this chronic
chronic condition has come with a gift. Stephanie says proudly, "He really is the
Superman I thought he was. The joy we have felt during this cancer is not anything
I can explain." And Donnie adds, "It's taught me that your joy is your choice every day.
And you can choose to live in joy and gratitude, whether you've got 15 days or 15,000.
©2010 KCBD NewsChannel 11. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.