Brad Schmitt, firstname.lastname@example.org 6:24 p.m. CST December 8, 2015
Yes, that blood in his stool caused concern, but country singer Wade Hayes didn’t think much about it.
He felt amazing: Hayes (“How Do You Sleep at Night”) was a beast in the gym lifting weights, eating clean and packing muscle onto his 185-pound frame back in 2011.
There was no family history of cancer, and a doctor buddy told him that the blood and mild stomachaches meant nothing — probably just an internal hemorrhoid.
“I didn’t even give it a consideration,” Hayes said.
Until he found himself doubled over in pain in his kitchen, bleeding profusely from his backside, unable to raise up.
The diagnosis: stage four cancer — the most severe, usually fatal.
But here he is more than four years later. He was since waged war with the disease twice and doctors like his chances.
His main oncologist is thrilled with Hayes’ progress. The country singer says he and doctors have pulled off a miracle.
And now Hayes, who still plays gigs all over the country, also gives talks aimed at giving hope to others battling colon cancer.
“I don’t like televangelists and all that stuff,” he says. “But I’m living proof that faith is a real thing.”
Leaning on faith kicked into high gear when he was leaning on the kitchen counter in pain that night in September 2011.
"God, let me get through this," he prayed. After all, he had to catch a flight to Houston the next morning for a gig.
Hayes eventually found a bottle of aspirin, popped a bunch, made his flight and played the gig at the popular Dosey Doe coffeehouse/barn.
Still in pain, Hayes made it back to Nashville, where he had a colonoscopy within a week. It revealed a tumor the size of an orange on his large intestine.
A scan also revealed tumors in his liver and in small sections of his diaphragm and lymph nodes.
“That was an attention-getter,” Hayes said. In the middle of a second scan at Vanderbilt Hospital, the bleeding and stomach pain returned.
After returning home, the pain was so intense he didn’t think he could make it from the driveway to the house.
That’s when his cell phone rang. It was a call from the doctor who did the scan.
"Go to the emergency room right now," the doctor said. "Your large intestine is digesting itself and will cut the blood off from the lower extremities and kill you."
Hayes was scheduled for a marathon surgery 10 days later. One surgeon told him he had a 12 percent chance of survival.
“The odds were incredibly bleak when he presented,” said Dr. Jordan Berlin, the Vanderbilt oncologist who treats Hayes.
But Hayes made it — after surgeons removed 70 percent of his liver, his gall bladder, 20 inches of large intestine and part of his diaphragm.
Hayes spent a month in the hospital, his room almost always filled with friends and relatives. Mom and Dad took care of his dog, Jack. And Hayes eventually made it home, where recovery wasn’t easy.
“I started having spasms that felt like my insides were going to split in two.”
The chemo afterward sucked, Hayes said.
Wade Hayes (Photo: Submitted)
Blisters in his nose and mouth, nausea, loss of appetite, little feeling in extremities.
“You spend hours where they stick a long, fat needle in your chest and pump poison into you.”
Still, he eventually got back on the road, playing guitar where he could — and in a year, the cancer came back.
“That was a letdown for sure. But I learned a trick,” he said.
“Somebody told me this: You try not to dwell on the place you’re at. You think about a time when you’re done with this and you imagine yourself there. And you put your head down and move forward and you don’t look up.”
Hayes distracted himself with books and prayer and friends as he marched through chemo again.
Now, Hayes is 2½ years cancer-free.
And he gives talks — participating in cancer awareness events and telling audiences about his battles.
“I’m hugging or crying or praying with someone at most every show.”
IF YOU GO
What: Wade Hayes and Bryan White perform
Where: Puckett's Franklin, 120 Fourth Ave. S., Franklin
When: 8:30 p.m. Dec. 11
Ticket information: Reservations for the $12 seats can be made by calling 615-794-5527.
Reach Brad Schmitt at 615-259-8384 and on Twitter @bradschmitt.