HILO, Hawaii (KHON2) – Colin Clark is an eternal optimist.
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“The person you’re seeing today is smiling and positive and energized. That’s the person I’ve always been,” said the 58-year-old Big Island resident, smiling in a taped Zoom interview with KHON2.
But a terminal cancer diagnosis in November of 2019 shook the Kailua-Kona man’s core.
“During the night I had a twitch in my left hand,” he explained. “(My wife and I) went to the hospital here on the island in Waimea. Wonderful team. Then we were flown straightaway to Oahu. Again, a great team there.”
Clark didn’t imagine his ailment would take him to California.
“When it was clear that something was pretty serious, very quickly, we were flown to L.A.”
Clark was flown to Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles, California. He was diagnosed with type 4 glioblastoma, a very aggressive brain tumor. It affects nearly 10,000 Americans every year.
“We don’t know of any environmental or lifestyle factors that can contribute to it. It’s a tumor that eats away at the brain. So it affects the very essence of who we are,” said neurosurgeon Keith Black, Chair of the Department of Neurosurgery at Cedars-Sinai.
Dr. Black consulted with Clark on his diagnosis.
“His main concern was for his wife and daughter,” he recalled.
“He was actually contemplating physician-assisted suicide, so as not to be a burden on his family.”
Dr. Black and his team convinced Clark to try treatment instead, which included a partial tumor removal, radiation and chemotherapy.
“Miraculously, he responded to the therapy. His tumor began to shrink. He began to regain his strength and his function, and his quality of life and the quality of time that he could spend with his wife, his daughter and his friends,” said Dr. Black.
He believes Clark’s optimism was vital.
“It’s important to realize not every tumor is the same. One of the advances that we’ve been able to make now is to be able to identify molecular characteristics of the tumor that we can develop unique strategies for. To try to control tumors that we can identify those characteristics for.”
It’s been nearly a year since Clark received treatment. He’s back on the Big Island with his loved ones, doing what he enjoys most: swimming, biking and running.
“To answer your question, how am I doing today? I’m excited to be here. We’re smiling,” he said.
“We want to spread that thought process for people who are struggling,” Clark added. “There’s many people struggling right now. There’s a bright white light that you can find. We’ve certainly had the privilege to find it.”
The 58-year-old understands his diagnosis is terminal. Clark is currently undergoing treatments to monitor the tumor.
“I still have the tumor,” he explained. “One day, it will take me out. But it could months. It could be years. It could be seven years, or one year.”
But it won’t stop him from spreading hope.
“What we’ve decided to do is just have as much quality of life as we can and just keep going,” Clark said.
“Doing new things. I’m gardening right now. I’ve never gardened before. I’m trying to cook and bake, this banana bread is getting ready, I can smell it.” he shared. “Whatever you haven’t done in the best that you want to do, do those things!”
Clark even added some words of wisdom.
“Have each other’s backs and staying in touch because some people go quiet and you think they’re okay, well they may not be okay. Just keep in touch with friends and colleagues,” he said.