Viz opts for positive cancer battle

Steve “Viz” Vezina is shown earlier this fall helping the freshman make last minute repairs to their float prior to the Homecoming Parade. Vezina is the class advisor and convinced the group to model their float after the 1970s rock band Kiss.  Vezina has recently been diagnosed with liver, colon and prostate cancer. A fundraiser to benefit Vezina and his family will be held Saturday during the BCHS and UMW football games. J.P. Plutt photo


Over the past month, Dillon’s Steve “Viz” Vezina’s life has been turned upside down.  With life as he had known it crumbling around him, Vezina met a kindred spirit Monday in a waiting room at the Huntsman Cancer Institute in Salt Lake City, Utah.

“I talked to a guy today who had exactly the same thing I have, and he told me this week is his sixth year anniversary since being diagnosed,” said Vezina of the impromptu life session.  “I talked his ear off.  I understand what is helping him.  He was so positive.”

As the stranger told Vezina stories of the antics and fun he had during his treatment, a light surely went off in Vezina’s subconscious.  “This is me.”

Vezina has always been a fun, well-liked personality.  When he walks in a room, people want to know him, to talk to him, to be his friend.

The stranger told Vezina of writing messages on his rear when he was going to the doctor for treatment on St. Pats Day.  He drew a shamrock on one buttocks but couldn’t manage the other side.  He asked his wife to scrawl a message to his doctor.

Later that day, while talking to a nurse, he asked her what she thought of the message that he thought said, “pinch me, I’m Irish.”

She read the message and hauled off and slapped his rear.  Vezina’s new friend was surprised by the reaction and asked the nurse why she slapped his backside cheek.

The nurse replied, “It says, slap me if I ask you to pinch me because I’m Irish.”

Vezina’s journey to chemotherapy at the Huntsman Cancer Institute began Labor Day Weekend.  His younger brother Jeff had just a few weeks before been diagnosed with prostate cancer.  Vezina’s family insisted he get a physical and blood test “just to be safe.”

Four days later, Vezina’s doctor advised him to go to Bozeman for a biopsy.  The tests in Bozeman were done Sept. 16.  On Sept. 23, Vezina found out that he had prostate cancer and that “it was in 11 of 12 core samples.”

His doctor recommended a trip to Salt Lake City for a surgical consultation.  Off he went and surgery was set for Oct. 30. 

 The doctor at Huntsman told Vezina it would be a good idea to get a colonoscopy before the surgery because after the operation, it would take some healing time before he could go through the colonoscopy procedure.  Vezina went to Bozeman Oct. 24 for the procedure and by that night he was told he had colon cancer.

Off Vezina went to the Huntsman Cancer Institute where he had a CT scan and MRI on Oct. 28.  In a meeting with his surgeon that afternoon, he was told that the tumor in his colon was Stage 4 and that it had spread to his liver.  

At that point the prostate surgery was off and the focus shifted to the colon cancer because of the aggressive nature of the cancer in that organ.  

“It was like getting kicked in the stomach three times,” said Vezina of the many negative twists his medical reports were taking.  “He did give me some good news.  The MRI results came back and they couldn’t see where any of the cancer had gone to the bones, to my lungs or to my lymph nodes.  So that was good.  Its better to fight the battle on three fronts rather than seven fronts.”

On Monday, Vezina started chemotherapy, a 46-hour program that will end Wednesday.

“I want to get home,” said Vezina Monday night, about 12 hours after starting the chemotherapy regime.  “I’ve just be deluged with such positive messages.  I can’t wait to get back and acknowledge some of that.”

Vezina has already digested the positive approach idea and he is operating full out on the idea that if he wants to extend his life, he better believe in positive outcomes.

“It is not curable, the best case would be for these chemo treatments to work and shrink the tumors, or slow them down to the point where I can get some more time,” said Vezina on what is suddenly the most precious, valuable asset in his world.   “They can’t cure it, and the chances of it going somewhere else are pretty high.”

His liver has one large tumor on top and several smaller tumors scattered throughout the organ.  The invasion is too widespread for surgery.

“It could be worse,” said Vezina.  “I could be looking at six months to a year.  I asked the doctor if I didn’t get any treatment at all, how much time would I have.   Six months to a year.  That was pretty sobering.”

Vezina realizes that if his younger brother didn’t get sick in the early stages where a simple surgery eliminated his problem, that the elder brother would be “a walking time bomb.”

“That 50 year mark is so critical to go and get that colonoscopy,” said Vezina, 54,  of advise he will give friends.  “I’m pretty sure that had I done that at 50 years old, it would be a whole different story today.  And you monitor the prostate with a simple blood test.”

While Vezina’s whole life has been changing by the day over the past month, his thoughts and concerns have turned to his wife Pattie and their three children Tucker, Torrey and Taylor.

“My biggest though is just concern about my wife,” said the teacher and coach.  “The toughest part on me is watching her, because I just can’t help her.  It certainly devastated all of us, but she took it the worst.

“I want my wife to be okay and I want my kids to be okay.  I certainly don’t expect them to be okay with it.  Acceptance is a big word.  That would be something I could be at peace with things.”

While Vezina feels a positive, realistic approach to dealing with his health issues could extend his life by six years or more, he finds some good and a bad joke in his situation.

“The one positive that I can see out of this is, I get to tell people how I feel about them,” related the husband and father.  “I’ve always said, I do not want to die in my sleep.  I want to see it coming…you’ve got to be careful what you wish for.”