If you get him going, Tyler Hood can rattle off the names of the people who treated him as he fought cancer — from the surgeon to the nursing staff.
“It took a village to get me back on my feet,” said Hood, a top administrative official for Centennial Hospital who was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2019.
At first, Hood started feeling under the weather and felt some changes in his body, he said.
“I wanted to ignore it,” said Hood, 34, whose girlfriend at the time could tell he was nervous and encouraged him to get some tests done.
Eventually, he saw a urologist and received a diagnosis of testicular cancer — the disease had spread to a degree, and he learned that he needed surgery quickly.
“That was a very, very tough day and weekend and the start of a very tough season” of life, Hood said. He underwent three rounds of chemotherapy over the course of about three or four months, concluding in May 2019.
A positive and competitive person, Hood had decided: “I’m going to attack this — I’m not going to let this attack me.”
He thought for every appointment, he would be early. For every meeting, he would take notes.
“I’m going to approach this like I’m applying for a job that I really wanted,” Hood remembers thinking. He had planned to “give my anxiety to God” and to trust in the health care workers and the system that he works as a part of, he said.
Now, though he receives scans every six months and gets blood work done, he is in remission, meaning that the signs and symptoms of his cancer have reduced.
As he moves closer to survivorship — he’s technically two years away from being considered a survivor of cancer — even amid the uncertainty, he’s excited.
“I wish I could be there tomorrow, but there’s purpose in this,” Hood said. “There’s purpose for me and hopefully for others. I’m meant to serve. I’m meant to serve other people through this.”
Asked what led him into the health care field before his diagnosis, Hood said: “Honestly, I couldn’t find a job.”
He was finishing up a program in business administration and did an internship in Florida and, ultimately, he found himself working in the health care field.
“It was evident that the days I was working in a hospital were the days I left fulfilled and with my cup full, so to speak,” Hood said.
He started working at Swedish Medical Center, and he eventually transitioned over to Centennial Hospital. He serves as the chief operating officer of the hospital, which expanded from the former Centennial Medical Plaza in 2021. Centennial Hospital, like the plaza before it, is affiliated with The Medical Center of Aurora.
After enduring cancer treatment, Hood felt called to use his experiences in shaping the health care his staff provides.
“The little things matter. The details matter,” Hood said. “I remember specific instances during my journey that were, maybe, it could have been a little bit better, and as a patient, I remember that. I remember the advice of, `Make sure you have a ride to infusion because you’ll be a little bit foggy afterwards.’”
From his place in hospital administration, Hood wants to make sure “everything is perfect” for cancer patients, whether it’s parking, food, directions to the clinic, or interactions with nurses and doctors.
“If they’re a patient in our hospital, (I hope) that they’re treated like I was treated, which is with empathy,” Hood said.
Asked what advice he would give people who are diagnosed with cancer about how to maintain their relationships and work lives while going through treatment, Hood said remaining open and laughing played an important role for him.
“At first, I wanted to crawl into a hole and have nobody. I didn’t want to talk to anybody about it. I was embarrassed,” Hood said. “I think the vulnerability was key for me. I laugh because I’m losing my hair naturally, but I had to lose all my hair from chemo and (had people around me say) `Oh, that’s what your head looks like — you’re going to be fine.’
“Having friends and colleagues willing to have a laugh really helped me both at work and (in my) personal life,” Hood added.
He also emphasized seeking help from a person’s resources, both on “the personal side and the health care side.”
“If there’s anybody who wants help with this kind of stuff, I want to help for the rest of my life whether that’s something (that) pops up in remission or I become a survivor and move on,” Hood said. “I think it’s very important to have support systems around you.”
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