He is young, bright and blessed with a loving family, including a young daughter and a brand-new son. And he is a five-year-survivor of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
Belvin was only 33 years old and newly married when he experienced sharp pain in his chest. He went promptly to be examined, and an x-ray showed a large mass in the center of his chest. The surgeon who evaluated the x-ray referred him to James Butera, MD at Rhode Island Hospital, who diagnosed the cancer.
Upon hearing the diagnosis, Belvin thought immediately of his new wife and of having to tell his mother. He knew it would be a difficult process-but even in this, he considered himself very fortunate.
Belvin says that many times throughout his life, he has been put into sets of circumstances that presented challenges and raised life questions, including being a young lieutenant in the United States Army sent to Africa-an experience that changed his perspective radically. Belvin says he was lucky to have lived through so many challenges before getting the cancer diagnosis.
It wasn't long before Belvin realized that he was in good hands at the Comprehensive Cancer Center. He says that the support of family and friends is very important, especially at the beginning, but then you need support from experts who can answer your questions and discuss what treatment will involve.
In another conversation with his radiologist about the possibility of seeking treatment in Boston, the radiologist told him that he also practiced at a center in Boston, and brought the same high level of care to his patients wherever he practiced. Belvin concluded that it was a physican's experience, not where he or she practiced, that mattered. Being treated locally also had significant benefits. Belvin was able to keep working, and also take advantage of local resources to help his whole family.
Throughout his treatments, Belvin says that the cancer made him think about his own mortality, think about what is really important. He had always been a positive person, and that spirit helped him get through the cancer treatments. When asked what advice he might have for others facing similar challenges, he says he'd tell them, "This is going to be a very difficult process. You are going to be challenged in ways you never thought you'd be challenged. But you will get through this. And there are people who will help every step of the way."
As he celebrates his five years as a survivor with many more to come, one big lesson, he says, comes to mind: every day is going to be a little bit different, and that's okay. Only now the challenges emerge from the unpredictability of children, and with a wide smile, he says that for him and his wife, it's nice to have a new set of concerns.
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