The Madera Tribune
Since he has been declared cancer free for the past three years, Madera’s Jim Taubert still has a few impairments, but is enjoying retired life.
“I’m good,” he said. “I have to work my legs because I had a little more hospital time than I would like and that hurt the circulation a little, but I’m doing pretty darn good.”
Taubert, who was diagnosed with nasopharyngeal cancer, has to wear hearing aids as a side affect to chemo and has some neck stiffness that has kept him away from his favorite pastime — golf.
“I just don’t have total flexibility to play golf,” he said.
Taubert worked for the city of Madera for the past 32 years, including the last few years as the head of the Successor Agency to the Redevelopment Agency.
However, it was the summer of 2015 that changed his life. The highlight was his oldest son, Jared, was getting married. However a week after, Taubert went in for radiation treatments that would last until 2016.
“I fell asleep on an airplane at takeoff and my ears got plugged,” he said. “Everyone says when you fall asleep on takeoff, it impacts your ears. I didn’t think anything of it for a while. A month later, with my poker group, they told me to get my ears checked. They said it was the second game where you couldn’t hear anything.”
He made an appointment with an ear, nose and throat specialist and is thankful the doctor went the extra mile.
“He put some tubes in my ear,” Taubert said. “Since he had me out, he went up my nose just to check my nose. When he asked the insurance permission to go up my nose, they denied it. He said it’s dumb and went up anyway. I was out of it enough that when he came in he asked about my ears. He said to keep popping it. He said, by the way, I found a tumor while I was there. All of the sudden, I called the nurse over and told him to get the doctor again. She brought him back and I asked him if he said I had a tumor. He said yes. We’re going to biopsy it and we’ll let you know. There wasn’t a call Friday, but he calls Monday. He said I had cancer. I called my doctor and said it was important.
“I told him and he called the other. He got ahold of a doctor right away and insisted on seeing the doctor right now. He set up the appointment the next day and went with me.”
Taubert was diagnosed with nasopharyngeal cancer and went right away to St. Agnes. Because there were concerns over the color of the tumor, Taubert was sent to Stanford and his doctor joined him.
“Stanford, being a teaching school, nasopharyngeal cancer was something they were really interested in,” he said. “Once they got me, they didn’t want to let me go.”
Taubert held off treatment until after his son was married and then went right into chemotherapy.
“We had to get an apartment in Stanford,” he said. “I had a session of chemo, then three weeks of daily radiation, a session of chemo and another three weeks of radiation and another chemo, then the real fun started. I waited 30 days, then I had chemo and I wore a belt for three days and they pumped me with chemo. I did three sessions of that. That was a bit of a butt kicker. I had to wear a mask for chemo. I laid down and they wired me in so I couldn’t move.”
In March of 2016, Taubert was told he was cancer free, about six months after his diagnosis.
Although he was diagnosed cancer free — and down to 132 pounds— he still wasn’t out of the woods. Because of some exposed bone and dead tissue, an infection got to his spine and he suffered from debilitating headaches.
“There were a lot of times I wasn’t able to make it to Stanford,” Taubert said. “There was also some times I couldn’t even make it to St. Agnes and went to Madera. I made the hospital tour during that deal. It was tough because neither Madera nor St. Agnes had the tools to figure out what was going on. St. Agnes said there was an infection in my ports where they put the chemo in and they pulled the ports out. That was a pain because I still had a lot of poking left with chemo. They did two or three MRIs and they couldn’t see inside my nose. They pumped me up with various things for five or six days. Once I got out, I went to Stanford and they put me in for another six days. They started going in and removing the dead cancer tissues.”
The dead tissue went from a dark mountain to be very pink tissue. He also had the exposed bone go from the size of a quarter to the size of half a fingernail. The headaches are basically gone now.
“I still go quarterly,” Taubert said. “I just refer to it as an oil change. They go up to where my cancer was. They remove the remaining fragments. The positive is the tissue that is all dark is all pink and it’s taken over the exposed bone. I am still subject to headaches, but not the hospital-type headaches.”
Taubert said he couldn’t have gotten through his ordeal without the support of Terry Dolph, Kirk Paolinelli and Steve Frazier, “the pizza guy,” he said.
“They had all had the type of cancer above the shoulders, except Terry,” Taubert said. “My treatment regimen is what people go through with the above-the shoulder cancer. Whenever I feel particularly down, those three know each other, but don’t talk. It seems like at my lowest point, whether I was at St. Agnes or Stanford, one of those three showed up and said it would last four days. The thought that went through my mind was I could go through anything for three or four days. They talked to me about what I hadn’t been through, yet.”
He also received so much support from the community that when he went for his chemo treatments, he went in fearless and knew he had support.
“The biggest support group I had was from the community,” he said. “Throughout my career, I did a lot of work with the Madera Ministerial Organization. When they found out about my cancer, en masse, I had people I didn’t know come to me in the grocery story telling me they are praying for me. When I went into that radiation, I had a huge wind at my back because of the prayer. It was actually faith. When I talk to people now who are going through it or about to go through it or still going to the after affects of it, I tell them about the faith and the huge difference it made in my approach. I went in with no fear.”
Cancer free for more than three years, although he is still feeling the after-effects of the treatment, Taubert is enjoying as much as he can. He is currently on a 19-day trip to the Pacific Northwest, his longest trip since he had cancer. However, when he comes back, he has two weeks of doctor, dentist and optometrist visits.
“I try to concentrate all my medical stuff in one week so the other three weeks I don’t have to think about it,” he said. “Generally speaking, it beats the heck out of the alternative. I don’t have any problems eating anymore. I try to go to the gym every morning. I would prefer to be a little more active the other 23 hours of the day. I get a lot of joy about talking with people that have been or are going through what I’ve been through. The main thing that helped me were the people I talked to that had been through it.”