Craig resident Joel Sheridan, 61, gives the survivor speech Friday night during the opening ceremony at the Craig Relay for Life, a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society, at Moffat County High School. Sheridan was diagnosed with prostate cancer three years ago, but is now cancer free.

Photo by Joshua Gordon

Craig resident Joel Sheridan, 61, gives the survivor speech Friday night during the opening ceremony at the Craig Relay for Life, a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society, at Moffat County High School. Sheridan was diagnosed with prostate cancer three years ago, but is now cancer free.

Craig’s Joel Sheridan delivers speech Friday night at Craig Relay for Life

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Craig resident Joel Sheridan’s life changed forever in 2007.

Sheridan, then 58, was diagnosed with prostate cancer after he learned of an elevated prostate during a prostate-specific antigen test.

“It was a giant emotional shock to my brain,” said Sheridan, a former longtime Moffat County School District educator and administrator. “There was fear that came instantly, but I didn’t really know what was going to happen.”

When the realization set in and he had time to reflect, Sheridan said he wanted to research the cancer as much as possible.

He found a wealth of information online. He said the excess material wasn’t always helpful.

“It got to the point that I felt that too much information was about as (bad) as not enough information,” he said. “I just finally had to turn it off.”

Instead, he found comfort and relief in talking to others.

Helping others with a positive message is what led Sheridan to give the survivor’s speech Friday night during the Craig Relay for Life, a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society, at the Moffat County High School track.

Sheridan, 61, who came out of retirement to finish the last school year as interim principal at East Elementary School, is now cancer free.

“We all need each other,” Sheridan wrote in a copy of his survivor speech. “We need to talk about our situations. We need to support each other.”

He stressed to the crowd that assistance and support from others helped him overcome the disease.

“People would stop me and tell me about how they had relatives or friends that survived the same cancer,” he said. “It let me know that I wasn’t going through this alone.”

Three months after he was diagnosed, Sheridan’s wife, Janet, retired early, allowing more time to spend with him.

“Before the cancer, my wife and I both lived quick and fast lives,” Sheridan said. “Our life slowed down, and that was one good thing that came out of this.”

The slower pace was a welcome change, Sheridan said.

“It changed my perspective on what is important,” he said. “I went through life assuming every day was given, but after a life-changing experience like cancer, I started to appreciate the little things.”

When all his options were laid in front of him, Sheridan decided to have the prostate removed. The cancer has not returned.

Sheridan now undergoes a prostate-specific antigen test every three months.

Apprehension accompanies the tests, he said.

“About two weeks before each examine, the worry comes back,” he said. “I worry about what the results will be and how I will deal with them if they are not good.”

In dealing with his own disease, Sheridan said he tried to keep perspective.

“My news could have been worse because the cancer I had was highly curable,” he said. “There are a lot of people out there that are worse off.”

Some of them he has known.

Before his diagnosis, Sheridan lost a friend to colon cancer.

Since his recovery, another friend has been diagnosed with prostate cancer, as well.

Again, he says communication is important.

“The best thing anyone can do is just talk to them and listen,” he said. “They just want a chance to talk and know someone is there for them.”

While preparing his Friday night speech, Sheridan learned there are more than 13 million cancer survivors in the United States.

“That gives me hope,” he said. “Every day a person with cancer can fight, it’s a day closer to a cure.”

He also wished to thank Relay for Life organizers and participants for supporting a worthy cause.

“I would like to thank all those involved in the local effort — the Relay for Life — particularly the main coordinator, Shannon (Samuelson), for making the effort to publicize the fight against cancer and raising funds to make the fight more than just words,” according to the copy of his speech. “Also, on a national scale, we all need to support the American Cancer Society in leading the way to finding cures for all types of cancer.”

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