Cancer, Community, and Buffalo Chicken

Last updated: April 2023

On the night of my 40th birthday, my wife took me out for a beer and a sandwich. That was 11 years ago. I’ve felt like crap ever since.

We had plans to go out that weekend, but my wife managed to find a babysitter on a school night. We had a couple of hours to get away, so we went to a local pub. O’Brian’s is the kind of place with one kind of whisky (Irish) and whatever sandwiches the bartender knows how to make.

In short, it’s a great place to have a birthday beer. Plus, the bartender, Pat, was a friend of ours.

Heartburn or something more?

I ordered a stout and a buffalo chicken wrap. We sat on the balcony, chatted with Pat, and enjoyed a good night together.

I woke up about midnight with heartburn. I should have known better than to have a beer and spicy food so late.

A week later, the heartburn was still there, plus I got bronchitis. Antibiotics helped a little, but they wouldn’t get rid of the bronchitis. It came back again a month later. More antibiotics. A month after that, on a family vacation, short of breath, I went to a country doctor and was told I had pneumonia.

A follow-up CT scan showed a swollen node in my chest. Two months later, another node popped up near my hip. It was follicular lymphoma.

The buffalo chicken wrap didn’t cause the cancer, but it started a chain of events that led to the diagnosis.

Back to O’Brian’s

Last month, I went back to O’Brian’s for the first time since that birthday date.

A few weeks before, my wife had seen a Facebook Event notice. Laura, Pat the Bartender’s wife, was hosting a fundraiser for a cancer patient support program. She’d been diagnosed with breast cancer. Laura had already had surgery, and was gearing up for chemo and radiation. She was going to shave her head, and she wanted a party.

The event was at O’Brian’s. My wife and I went. They set up a grill in the parking lot, and local businesses donated food. That same quiet balcony where I had my buffalo chicken wrap was now filled with people. Laura greeted everyone who came with a big hug. We bought raffle tickets and put in a bid for one of the silent auction items (a bottle of good Irish whisky).

We saw Laura’s daughter, who told us that Laura hadn’t wanted to do the fundraiser. Pat and her kids talked her into it. And after Laura made the Facebook announcement about it, she was stunned at how many people said they would come. Or who sent regrets, but made a donation online. Or who gave items for the auctions and raffle.

Laura raised over $10,000.

I had a hamburger. I skipped the buffalo chicken wrap. I knew it wouldn’t give me cancer, but why take that chance?

What was different?

Even more important than the money raised was the support that Laura got.

It takes courage to reach out the way Laura did. Sometimes it’s easier to go into a shell.

But community matters. The support of loved ones is great. Connecting with people you don’t know, but who know what you’ve been through, can be a huge help.

It’s great if that happens face-to-face, but that’s not always possible. An online community (like the one here at can be a blessing. It has been for me.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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