By Julie Farley, Editor
I will wrap of the “Relay for Life” series this week with a young man who truly is an inspiration to me and many others. Stefan Goolsby, 24, of Elizabethtown, has battled Stage 4 Ewing’s sarcoma for several months. However, sitting in my office, he looks like the picture of health! Stefan has been through chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery for the cancer found in his leg. There is no doubt that his positive attitude has kept him in good physical and mental shape. I just think he is remarkable!
Stefan is full of energy. Before his cancer diagnosis, he walked 10 miles almost daily from Peters Creek to Elizabethtown. At times there was pain in his leg which he thought was caused possibly by an injury; it turned out to be cancer.
Editor’s note: From a medical journal – Ewing’s sarcoma is a type of cancer that occurs most often in and around the bones. Ewing’s sarcoma is rare and typically affects children and young adults, though it can occur at any age. Ewing’s sarcoma can occur in any bone but most often begins in the leg bones and hipbones, as well as the bones in the arms, chest, skull and spine.
Stefan’s family (on both parents’ side) has a history of various cancers, but the disease that invaded Stefan’s body is not hereditary. It is a rare cancer that is equally rare to strike someone his age; it is a childhood disease. Stefan’s doctor, Brian Van Tine, is a researcher and professor who teaches about sarcomas and related diseases.
Stefan’s leg bone was replaced with titanium which freed him from the wheelchair that he preferred to put behind him. Contrary to my understanding of his condition, his leg was not removed. The treatment took place at the Siteman Cancer Center in St. Louis, Missouri. (Endoprosthetic replacement of segmental skeletal defects is the preferred technique of reconstruction after resection of bone sarcomas.) Siteman is one of only seven hospitals that treats this type of cancer.
Stefan is equally amazed at how well his body has endured the treatment. He remembers the words of an elderly man, also a cancer patient, in the waiting room during one of his appointments. “You’re only as sick as you feel,” the man told Stefan. Stefan pondered that statement and realized that he had control over the impact of the disease on his body, and he took charge.
Stefan says that when he was told he had cancer, he was down about it. “It hasn’t been all bad, though,” he said. “I did quit smoking.” He calls himself lucky that he could tolerate the treatments as well as he did. Stefan pointed out to me that a friend of his also going through cancer right now really is THE ONE TO LOOK UP TO! “Korey Daughenbaugh, that kid’s STRONG!” Stefan said.
Besides a loving and supportive set of parents, Stefan’s girlfriend, Willow, provides “huge moral support”, he said. “I take care of myself physically,” Stefan said, “but she lifts me up.”
Stefan has been a participant of the annual American Cancer Society Relay for Life for many years. He has walked in the relay and helped set up the luminaries for the part of the event that honors cancer survivors and memorializes those who passed. Pausing and looking at me in a rather somber manner, Stefan said, “I never thought I’d be setting up a luminaria for myself.” Stefan calls cancer an epidemic. “We try so hard to preserve our food,” he said. Those preservatives are causing cancer, Stefan believes. He plans to make a difference in that aspect someday in Hardin County. Stefan attends Southeastern Illinois College majoring in Agri-Business. He wants to bring to Hardin County a source of food that is “farm to table” fresh, free of preservatives. “We don’t have anything like that here,” he said. “With all of the technology that we have, we should all have healthy food to eat and good drinking water.”
Stefan says it is going to take time for him to realize his dreams, and he might be away from Hardin County for a while, but it is his plan to live and work here. So many of his friends have left for school and employment, because there are few opportunities. Stefan has bought a home in Elizabethtown which is being remodeled, and he plans to stay!
More About Stefan
Stefan was born on March 25, 1992 to Tom and Jan Goolsby. He has four brothers and sisters. Since his graduation from Hardin County High School, Stefan served six years in the military at Fort Jackson, South Carolina and Fort Huachuca, Arizona. As a youngster, Stefan was in 4-H and many school organizations including FFA. He helped out at Hillcrest Baptist Camp in rural Cave In Rock with cleaning and building through the years. Well, Stefan has always been busy doing projects with the boundless energy that he has.
Oh, and as far as his favorite birthday cake flavor, Stefan likes all of them — maybe chocolate a bit more than the others.
Stefan’s ideal vacation spot would be anywhere near water…for fishing, swimming, etc. “I like living near the river and seeing the view of it,” he said. His home is very near the Ohio River.
Stefan’s response was this when I asked if he admired anyone in particular: Anyone who wakes up in the morning, goes to work, and makes an effort to make a living. “If you don’t make an effort to help yourself, I’ll respect you, but I can’t help you,” Stefan says.
I asked Stefan if he has a favorite meal cooked by his mother — or father. “I just can’t take greasy take-out anymore,” Stefan said. “I like ALL of the home cooked meals made by Mom and Dad!”
Did Stefan have a favorite teacher at HC K-12? “I got along with all of my teachers,” he said. “I’ve had some conversations with Mr. Little, when he was the school principal.” “I don’t know if he really liked me,” Stefan said with a chuckle.
Abraham Lincoln is Stefan’s favorite president of the United States. His first car was a champagne colored Buick Century, and his first paying job was “food and bed count” working for his parents on the family farm. Stefan’s favorite outdoor activities are gardening and walking. “Walking is good for strength building,” he said, “but I literally can’t sit still! I just have to be doing something.” Stefan’s pet peeve is people who have complete intolerance — those who just cannot accept anyone else’s opinion on a matter. “People who just won’t try to listen and consider somebody else’s view,” Stephan explained. s
One of Stefan’s favorite childhood memories is self-made “adventures” on Peters Creek at the family home with his dog, Frisky.
Stefan’s view on what political leaders can do to make life better for Americans is this: “Legalization of industrial hemp. There are 50,000 uses for hemp, and there is good potential for industry,” he said. “It’s crazy not to tap into that.”
Stefan defines himself as a very spiritual person constantly searching for God. Both of us agree that God is Love, above all else.
Retirement is a long way off for Stefan, but he has a goal for that time — to be completely self sufficient (off the grid) for survival, and he also wants to travel. “There is so much beauty to see in the world,” he said.
The fun question that I ask most of the neighbors during interviews is this: What is under your bed? Stefan says without hesitation, “I don’t even want to know!”
Our lively conversation ended with Stefan expressing his thanks to every single person who has had kind words and positive thoughts for him during his cancer treatments and recovery. “Someone saying something like ‘Hey, how’s it going’ really is encouragement for me!” Stefan said. “The only reason I get through this is because of all of the positive projection.”
Stefan’s experience brings to mind these important goals: keep a positive attitude, take charge of your body, and get cancer screenings.