Dennis Seibel: new way forward
When Dennis Seibel was diagnosed with cancer, something extraordinary happened… instead of losing faith, he found a new path forward.
“I don’t know how to describe it, but something happened to me. I call it a spiritual intervention. I decided I had a choice to make. There were two paths I could take and if I took the first path, I wouldn’t last long. I chose the second path. I chose to face the challenge and look for the silver linings. To try and transform and rebuild my life with positivity and purpose,” he said.
Dennis was at a particularly low point in his life in 2022, when a persistent cough sent him to the doctor.
“I had lost my job, my long-term relationship ended, my business had taken a hit during COVID, money was running out… I felt like I lost everything,” he said. “With everything snowballing out of control in my life, I wasn’t that concerned about the cough that wouldn’t go away. But then I lost my voice.”
When the diagnosis was throat cancer, Dennis was completely blindsided. “It felt like an airplane hitting the side of a mountain,” he said.
Immediately admitted to hospital, Dennis spent 10 weeks at Tom Baker Cancer Centre where treatment included a tracheotomy, chemotherapy, and a high dose of radiation.
“My first three weeks in hospital were rough. I was so weak, that the doctors told me later they didn’t think I would make it. I was at a point where I didn’t even really want to make it. But then this change came from above and also from within,” he said. “I decided I wanted to fight.”
For Dennis, fighting meant opening himself up in ways he never imagined he would. It meant dropping his guard and showing his family and friends his true self – raw and real.
“I used to be positive and ambitious. I had a good outlook on life and a sense of humour. But things had turned very negative, and I was a typical male – closed – everything under lock and key. Now I’ve decided I’m going to be an open book. I talk to my sisters and everyone openly and willingly. I’m proud of my story. It’s humbling and humiliating, but I’m proud because of how I’ve come through it, and the steps I’ve taken to be a better, more open person,” he said.
When Dennis got sick, his life came full circle… he found himself coming home to Brooks, Alberta where he grew up and where his parents and siblings still live. He moved in with his sister and has slowly been finding a way to live as well as he can, even with a feeding tube, ongoing medical needs, and dependence on those who care for him.
“I can’t help but look back through all the misery of getting sick and being grateful for what happened. Cancer brought me back to my family. It brought me back to my faith. I can say overwhelmingly – I’m happier now than I was prior to getting cancer, even though I’ve lost everything,” he said.
“When I learned that Wellspring provides more than just physical and emotional support, I was able to reach out and use their Money Matters program to guide me through the process of accessing government programs such as CPP and disability. This was such a relief, especially very early on. I was so focused on my health, everything else had fallen to the side,” he said.
A few months later, while in Calgary for a medical procedure, Dennis dropped by a Wellspring centre to leave a gift of his homemade pepper jellies, and he was moved by the experience. “I was inspired by the people there and what they were doing to help people in need,” he said.
The experience reminded him that there is a community of support there for him, whenever he is ready, and wherever he is at.
“I am so grateful to my family and friends who have been there through all the stages of my journey, but sometimes you need a different kind of connection; people outside of family to add an extra layer of comfort.
I live in Brooks and I can’t drive, so it’s good that I can connect with Wellspring and access their services from anywhere,” he said.
This fall, Dennis signed up for several Wellspring programs that are set to begin this month online.
“I haven’t experienced the full impact of Wellspring yet, but I’ve seen it, and I’m looking forward to it. I know it will be beneficial to me,” he said.
“Cancer can put you in a dark place but family and places like Wellspring, they turn on a light for you; help to guide you out of it. My circle has changed – it’s gotten smaller – but it’s gotten so much better. The good ones stay,” he said.
Going forward, Dennis says he is not the man he once was; but he hopes that by being open and sharing, he is living his purpose.
“I hope my story can help others. Maybe they learn from my mistakes or take precautions because of something I did or didn’t do. Or maybe they come to see what I’ve seen; that being open is better, and that our true strength and resilience are put to the test during times of adversity. If we choose to, we can find silver linings, and in those moments, we can transform ourselves.”