Imagine if you were suddenly unable to do the things you were most passionate about. Sadly, for too many people, a cancer diagnosis robs them of those things. But a local cancer survivor has found a way to make peace with the past, and he’s now inspiring others to move forward with their heads held high.
Looking at him today, you'd hardly believe what Dennis Seifert has been through in the last six years.
“I was decrepit and looked like I was about 90-years-old when I went to see her,” Seifert said. “And in 6 months she got me here."
“Here” is in remission, after a debilitating battle back from lung cancer. It’s a disease that robbed him of his career as a tile setter and precious time with his loved ones -- the years of non-stop chemo and radiation drained his body and mind.
"It was intense,” Seifert said. “There was times when I felt like I was crawling around in the valley of death."
Then in 2011, doctors told Seifert he beat it -- he'd survived cancer. But he didn't just want to survive. He wanted to be a survivor.
“I told them that I was a survivor and what my intent was that I just wanted to give back, to be part of the healing process for other people,” Seifert said. “They latched onto that and said ‘you know, we might have a really good spot for you over at Virginia Piper.’"
His determination to give back led him to an oncology clinic and the volunteer opportunity no one saw coming. Around the clinic, Seifert is known as “the wig guy” -- helping women like Karlene, who recently lost her hair during radiation treatment.
He’s lending support to women who go there with mixed emotions. Women don't expect a guy, a guy with no hair, to understand what they're going through.
"I could tell right away... she was distraught,” Seifert said. "We started talking and I told her I was a survivor and we started comparing stories. She told me I inspired her and that just almost made me cry."
Somehow, of all the hats Dennis Seifert has worn over the years -- professional tile setter, cancer survivor… this one fits the best.
"It makes me feel really good that I'm not the one who needs to be helped all the time now,” Seifert said. “I can actually contribute to someone else. And that's what's been the big thing for me is giving back."