Beating Cancer One Day At A Time
by Cheval John
“I’m sorry, but you have cancer.”
When a person hears these words from the doctor, fear would grip their hearts and they would wonder if they’re going to live long enough to see their children grow up to be adults, or celebrate their wedding anniversaries and many more important milestones.
That’s the case of James S. Olson, Ph.D., Regents Professor of History at Sam Houston State University. He has written or co-written more than 40 books, and his most recent book, “Making Cancer History: Disease and Discovery at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center,” describes the difference the center has made in the lives of cancer patients and their families.
Olson received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in History from Brigham Young University in 1967, and a Master of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy Degrees in History from Stony Brook University in 1969 and 1972, respectively.
“During my time as a graduate student, I was married and had a family,” said Olson. “I had part-time jobs which included washing dishes and mopping floors to support the family.”
After Stony Brook, Olson started teaching at Sam Houston in 1972 and made an immediate impact on the students he taught. By 1977, he had written his first book and received the Excellence in Teaching Award.
Everything was going well for him until receiving that fateful news in 1981 that he had cancer.
“It was very frightening,” said Olson. “I was worried because of the 50/50 survival rate and I had to confront it.”
He received radiation therapy and it had appeared to be gone until it returned years later in his arm and he had no choice but to get it amputated to keep it from spreading.
He had adjusted to life and continued teaching and doing research and in 1994, he received the title of Distinguished Professor. Years later, he received the news that he had a tumor in his brain. It is a slow growth tumor and every few months, he goes to the doctor to make sure that it hasn’t grow to the point that it is life threatening.
During this ordeal, he received great news. In 2003, after the completion of the Academic Building IV, the Texas State University System Board of Regents approved the naming of the auditorium, the James S. Olson Auditorium, in honor of Dr. Olson’s dedication to teaching, research and service to the students of Sam Houston. Three years later, he received the title of Regents Professor from the Texas State University System Board of Regents.
Dr. Olson is an inspiration to many students and especially to his colleagues at Sam Houston. His teaching style makes it easy for the students to understand the material and after a person hears his story and understands the trials and tribulations that he has went through, a person has to appreciate life and to enjoy every moment that is given to them.
One way to honor those that either are survivors or are dealing with cancer, is to participate in Relay for Life that will be held on April 29 at the Elliot T. Bowers Stadium from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.
For more information, visit their website at: www.relayforlife.org/samhoustontx