A strange symptom to life-saving surgery to evolving treatment

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Joe Parks noticed that something wasn't quite right about four years ago.

"I was out fishing, and I made a cast, and I couldn't see where my bait went," says Parks, now 73. "I also couldn't see my right hand, so I knew that something was wrong ..."

Parks, of Cape Girardeau, says that he had lost his peripheral vision on both his right and left side.

"I went to a neurologist, and it showed a tumor on my occipital lobe," he says. "Dr. Tolentino didn't know (at that time) if it was cancer, but it was set to be removed. They cut a piece out of my skull and removed the tumor ..."

Joe Parks poses for a photo at his home.
Fred Lynch ~ Southeast Missourian

Parks' peripheral vision was restored once the tumor was removed. The tumor was malignant.

"I had radiation on my occipital lobe. My radiation oncologist, Dr. Joseph Miller, wanted to make sure that we got rid of all the cancer in that area ..."

After having a body scan, more cancer was found.

"They found a tumor on top of my pancreas and a tumor on my left lung," Parks said.

He then went through radiation on his pancreas.

"Chemo didn't help me, and it made me real sick," says Parks. "They also put me on Opdivo, an immunotherapy drug that helps the body to fight cancer. The tumor on my pancreas is completely gone, and the lung tumor has shrunk sizably. And, I still do Opdivo transfusions every two weeks."

Parks says that he was in no pain before the cancer diagnosis.

"I just knew something wasn't right (with my vision) when I was fishing ...", he says.

Like many, Parks attributes his faith to getting him through such a rough patch in his life.

"It is a blessing that this cancer has been healed." he says. "Without Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior, I couldn't have done it."

Parks hopes that his survival story can help other cancer patients.

"We go to the Nazarene Church, and a lady there came down with cancer," says Parks. "Someone told me that she felt better about (her situation) after seeing me come through it. I didn't realize that at the time ..."

Parks says that he can't say enough positive things about the care he received at the Southeast Cancer Center.

"It was excellent," he says. "They have a very caring staff. I don't know what those girls in radiation could have done to make it any better ... From the lady doing janitorial work to the people parking cars to the receptionist to the doctors, everyone there is very nice and so positive. They also have a great support staff that you can call if you have any problems."

Parks, who is retired, owned and operated Parks Automotive on Park Street in Cape, for many years.

"My son, Bryant, has been running the shop for about the past seven years," he said.

Parks and his wife, Linda, have been married for 52 years. In addition to their son, they have three granddaughters and one grandson.

In his spare time, Parks enjoys fishing, and he owns a 1995 Corvette that he loves working on.