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Eric Anderson

  • Author: Eric Anderson
  • Date Submitted: Aug 30, 2019
  • Category: Cancer Care

Eric Anderson smiles in the face of cancer. Some might call him crazy, but not those who know the 54-year-old former military veteran turned music instructor and Rotarian. Those who know Eric, know that he leaves the crazy to his socks.

As Eric undergoes radiation and chemotherapy treatments to ward off rogue cancer cells, he uses his crazy and colorful socks to inspire those caring for cancer patients in Visalia. That includes the teams at Kaweah Health Medical Center, Sequoia Regional Cancer Center (SRCC), a partnership of Kaweah Health and Adventist Health, and Bryson Cancer Care.

"Yeah I have to be here, but they choose to be here," said Eric, who was diagnosed with cancer at the end of May after his wife Wendy noticed a lump on his neck. "My 26 years of service in the Air Force is nothing compared to what you guys do and continue to do for patients."

Eric never would have dreamed that his trip to see the doctor, would lead him down a path where he faced a seven-week course of radiation treatments and chemotherapy. Eric's doctor ordered a scan and biopsy of the lump, which resulted in surgery to remove lymph nodes and the lump. The lump was the size of an orange, Wendy said.

“From there it’s just been crazy, a whirlwind,” Wendy said.

Crazy socks are now a common site at SRCC, where radiation technicians, nurses and doctors caring for cancer patients proudly wear the socks Eric has given them. They have everything imaginable on them - superheroes, sports teams, pets, cartoon characters and foods – one set even had a jar of peanut butter on one sock and a jar of jelly on the other.

"This is just a way to thank people who are taking care of people in a dark and bleak time. The staff choose to be there every day to help patients get through their suffering," said Eric, who often plays the sock game with a staff member, where he puts his sock up against a staff member’s sock, then asks people to vote for the best sock on his social media page. "When I give them socks, their eyes light up. They are bright, fun, and a distraction from the seriousness."

Julio Sanchez, a registered nurse at SRCC, said Eric's gesture has meant the world to the team. "When I learned what he was doing, I was close to tears. This is our job and we love doing it, but it is always nice to be appreciated. He is definitely making the world brighter."

Crazy socks were Eric's thing well before his doctor ever said cancer. As someone who records drumming videos, Eric said the colorful socks cut the glare of his pale bare feet on video. Soon, crazy socks became the gift of choice for Eric on birthdays and holidays; his collection includes about 100 pairs.

When her husband decided that he wanted to start giving socks to his "bros at radiation," she went shopping. She bought 50 pairs of socks that trip. However, as word got around, the couple's mailbox filled with socks. Wendy's service club, Visalia Sunset Rotary, even held a sock drive for Eric.

"There have been times when he couldn't eat or drink, but socks were coming in the mail and even with him feeling bad, it made him smile," Wendy said. "I think it's so amazing what people are doing. These socks are making an impact and that's the coolest thing. They are bringing people closer together who would have never known each other."

Michelle Adams, a Registered Nurse at SRCC, said Eric’s Looney Toons socks made quite an impression when she first met him. “Julio said, ‘Wait till you meet this guy and see his socks,’” she said. Michelle was there to start Eric’s IV; he had come to the cancer center for radiation planning and was laying on the table wearing Looney Toons socks.

After caring for Eric and getting to know him and his socks, Michelle is a fan. “I’m a big fan of the fun socks too, so I’ve decided I’m going to wear them every day in support of him,” she said, pointing to a pair of socks with bacon and eggs on them.

When he’s had a surplus of socks, Eric has even been able to give socks to cancer patients. Eric and his wife have seen patients wearing them during treatments.

Mary Kay Akins and her husband Michael, who has cancer, were happy to get a pair. They had heard about the socks for weeks and luckily ran into Eric and Wendy after his treatment one day; they were holding buckets of crazy socks. "We're all about humor and know that you have to laugh especially when it feels like you can't. Something like this is a little thing that helps you get through the serious."

In addition, with the kindness and compassion displayed by the team at Sequoia Regional Cancer Center, Akins said it was no wonder the Andersons wanted to give back. "The people here are awesome," she said. "Every single person puts their heart on the line every single day for their patients."

Michelle said she puts her heart out there for patients because kindness comes back to her and that will be the case for Eric. “My mom was also an RN and she told me the kindness you give, you always get back tenfold,” she said. “Here at the cancer center, it’s true. It’s an absolute privilege to take care of our patients here, they are wonderful.”