By Erin Pisters and Mary Brolley
Although some cancer survivors distance themselves from cancer after treatment, Art Herzog has taken another route.
Even after three recurrences, Art's positive outlook on life -- and cancer -- is contagious.
Giving back to other prostate cancer patients
The prospect of improving other patients' experiences has always been important to Art.
For 22 years, he's been an active and devoted volunteer with the Anderson Network, a community of almost 2,000 cancer patients and survivors who share their experiences, advice and encouragement with other patients facing similar obstacles.
Matched by age, diagnosis and treatment, prostate cancer patients know they can count on Art to answer their questions or concerns.
"When our staff contacts Art to see if he's available to be matched, he never hesitates," says Laura De La Rosa, program coordinator for Anderson Network.
"He puts patients or caregivers at ease, no matter how tough the diagnosis. He calms their fears and shares his own experience. He reminds them that if he can do it, so can they."
Providing hope and
facts for new prostate cancer patients
Just this year, Art earned the Painter Award, which is given annually to an Anderson Network volunteer who's made exceptional contributions to patient networking activities and support.
Anyone who's met Art can quickly understand why he received this honor: This warm, funny and sympathetic man has become a source of strength and support for many men battling prostate cancer at MD Anderson and beyond.
"Art gives them the most important thing of all -- hope," De La Rosa says.
When he calls a patient he's been matched with, the conversation often starts slowly, Art says.
"Most of them don't know what to ask. They're still coping from the shock of their prostate cancer diagnosis."
But soon the men start talking and comparing notes.
"They tell me things they don't feel comfortable telling their doctors or their wives," he says.
"I don't coddle 'em. I don't say, 'Poor you.' I joke with them. And I don't give them false hope. I tell them the facts."
Art has also volunteered at Anderson Network's Cancer Survivorship Conference for many years.
Easing nerves with a welcoming
Perhaps most memorably, Art was a counselor at Anderson Network's CareFree Retreat for nine years. He arrived early on his motorcycle to check that the cabins were clean, the air conditioning turned on and coffee available for the patients.
When the campers -- some of whom were quite nervous about the whole experience -- arrived at camp, they were greeted by Art dressed as a leather-clad, tattooed motorcyclist with a long black wig.
His unexpected and humorous welcome never failed to ease the nerves of the campers.
Gasper Mir, who volunteered with Art at the Carefree Retreat, quickly recognized his love for helping others, selfless attitude, friendliness and sincerity.
"Once you know Art, you know him," Mir says.
To learn how to connect with a cancer survivor through the Anderson Network, call 1-800-345-6324. To attend the 2013 Anderson Network Cancer Survivorship Conference, visit our website, register online.