1221 S.W. 4th, Room 240, Portland, OR 97204
Commissioner Nick Fish in The Oregonian, Sunday, August 4, 2019
Two years ago, my doctor called me at work. The test results were back. I had stomach cancer.
It was the ultimate sucker punch. Without warning, my world turned upside down. My thoughts turned to my dad, who died of cancer, my family and my future.
The doctors at OHSU’s Knight Cancer Institute acted quickly. A port was implanted in my chest, and I started to receive regular and aggressive chemotherapy infusions. They warned me it would be a marathon and not a sprint.
Two years later, we have prevented the spread of the cancer. In fact, as the old cliché goes, the cure is often worse than the disease. Each treatment knocks me out for a few days; I rely on drugs, acupuncture, and massage to manage the side effects.
About 17 million Americans deal with cancer every day, according to the American Cancer Society. Some are in remission, others are in treatment. It’s the second leading cause of death in our country – we lose about 600,000 people a year.
Lots of survivors have shared their inspiring stories with me, and I’m using my platform to advocate on their behalf. For example, I have spoken out about the perils of going backwards on health care. Millions of Americans with “pre-existing conditions” are at risk of being treated as second-class citizens if Obamacare is repealed or struck down by the courts. That would be a catastrophe.
So, what has changed in my life, and what have I learned?
First, it would be an understatement to say that cancer changed everything. I never thought I’d be living with a chronic illness at 60. And while certainty about the future is a luxury nobody enjoys, uncertainty is a constant companion.
But I will not let cancer set the terms of my life. I work a full schedule, fueled by my passion for my work as a city commissioner. I cherish quality time spent with my family and friends. And I try to take the bumps in the road in stride.
Second, I have learned some powerful lessons during this journey. Here are a few:
These powerful lessons have deepened my sense of gratitude for the blessings in my life – especially for the love and kindness of others.
I am grateful for all the doctors, nurses and practitioners who have helped me, and for all those who believe in the mission of the Knight Cancer Institute. And I am grateful for everyone in our community who has lifted me and my family up during a challenging time.
My dream is to continue my public service, watch my son graduate from high school, support my daughter as she makes her way in this world and share my life with my wife.
Cancer is a formidable adversary. But so is my team. I will continue to fight the disease with every fiber in my body. And I intend to win.
Here is my hope for the future: that Portland leads the way in finding new cures for cancer. Millions of people like me are counting on it.
Today, Nick was honored to speak at the groundbreaking of a major improvement project at the Leach Botanical Gardens in East Portland.
The garden expansion includes new features like an aerial tree walk, a pollinator garden, a fireplace terrace, new paths, and over a thousand new plants.
At the groundbreaking, Nick said, “Leach Botanical Garden is East Portland’s hidden gem – for now. But thanks to this new investment, it won’t be hidden much longer.”
The project will transform a local treasure into world-class destination, joining other famous Portland gardens like the Japanese Garden, Lan Su Chinese Garden, International Rose Test Garden, and Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden.
The non-profit Leach Garden Friends raised over $1.26 million in donations to support the project. Other funding partners include Portland Parks & Recreation through Systems Development Charges (fees developers pay on new construction), Prosper Portland, and Metro.
Special thanks to Leach Garden Friends Executive Director David Porter and the Leach Friends Board of Directors; to Commissioner Amanda Fritz for her deep commitment to Leach during her tenure as Parks Commissioner; and a very special thank you to the late Charles Jordan who famously called Leach “a place like no other” and saved it from being sold by the City.