COLUMBUS, Ind. — For a Columbus, Indiana man, life, family, and reflection are important more now than ever.
Toby Stigdon was first diagnosed with thyroid cancer in May 2021 when he noticed it hurt to swallow on one side of his throat. Stigdon’s doctor sent him immediately to an ENT.
“It was just like a whirlwind,” said Stigdon, “The ENT was like ‘Well, the good news is, thyroid cancer if you’re going to get it, is the best kind you can get,” said Stigdon. Stigdon later had surgery to remove his thyroid, as is normal procedure with cancer patients diagnosed with thyroid cancer.
Unfortunately, this was not the solution. Stigdon’s tumor began to grow and spread to his lungs. His doctor said he had never seen a tumor like Stigdon’s before.
On his doctor’s suggestion, Stigdon and his family drove to the IU Cancer Center in Indianapolis for further treatment. It was at that place where Stigdon found out his cancer was terminal.
“What I’ve heard from my doctors is that some patients live three years on a pill and some five years,” said Stigdon. “It was scary to see that PET scan,” he continued.
After hearing the scary news of his situation, Stigdon knew exactly what he wanted to dedicate the rest of his life to: saving future cancer patients.
Stigdon worked in assisted living facilities for 15 years. It was there that he learned the true meaning of living and how difficult it is when families adjust to a “new normal”. He said most of his life, he has been a bubbly person, outgoing, and helpful.
When asked how his demeanor changed after finding out his cancer was terminal, Stigdon said, “What’s changed the most is just spending time with my wife and kids. In the 15 years that I worked in long-term care and assisted living, I maybe took five holidays off.
“I used to tell my wife, ‘We’ve got time.”
Although he is unsure just how much time he has left, Stigdon is spending it taking care of future cancer patients at the Don & Dana Myers Cancer Center in Seymour by kayaking 66 miles this October. He’s calling it “Kayaking for Cancer”.
“I’ve always loved the outdoors and camping and hiking and fishing – that’s from my dad doing that stuff with me when I was a kid,” said Stigdon. “For me [kayaking] is when I am at peace most. I have time to collect my thoughts and process things and say my prayers….and then, it’s a challenge.”
Not only is Kayaking for Cancer a challenge for Stigdon to fundraise, but it’s also a physical challenge for him as well.
“I thought, what a good test of endurance if I can go this far,” he said.
So why exactly 66 miles?
“Why exactly 66?,” smiled Stigdon. “I grew up camping with my grandparents in North Vernon, Indiana and the Muscatatuk River runs through there and also runs through Seymour.
“So, roughly at 66 miles, that river joins the White River. Two rivers that have played a big part in my life, I thought, what a cool way to help people,” he said.
On Thursday, October 6, Stigdon alongside his cousins BJ and JR, and Stigdon’s brother Levi will all begin their 66-mile kayak journey in hopes to raise money to save lives.
Stigdon has raised about $12,000 in just a month for the Schneck Foundation. That number is expected to only grow and grow. Stigdon expects possibly more than $20,000-$25,000 will be raised.
To donate to Kayaking for Cancer and to learn more about the Schneck Foundation click here.