Looking at Charles Bodhi as he sits on the couch of his Saugus home, happily chatting with his daughter, one wouldn’t know he’s sick, but one look to either side and the medical equipment strewn about tells a different story.
Eleven years ago, Bodhi was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, given only months to live, but doctors didn’t know then what they know now: The now-62-year-old is a fighter.
To the amazement of his doctors, he’s since endured more than 50 surgeries, dozens of rounds of chemotherapy and a number of alternative, natural treatments, winning the fight against multiple cancers multiple times.
Just two weeks ago, Bodhi was diagnosed with cancer again. This time it’s terminal, as it has spread to his other organs.
Even so, he’s determined to continue fighting, and his unwaveringly positive attitude and spirit have allowed him to continue living a happy life, reaching his goal of meeting his grandchildren.
The decade-long fight
In 2009, Bodhi’s appendix burst, with doctors not realizing it until seven days afterward, following a CT scan.
“(The doctor) said, ‘I don’t know how you’re alive, you should be dead, because it burst completely, there’s pus everywhere. I don’t know how you held it for seven days,’” Bodhi recalled.
It was in surgery that doctors discovered that Bodhi had a large tumor and found two colon cancers in the same place, which is very rare. He was given six, maybe nine, months max to live, but Bodhi didn’t agree with the prognosis.
“I said, ‘No, no, no, you don’t know me. I’m going to fight it, no matter what,’” Bodhi said he told the oncologists.
The fight began, and Bodhi underwent his second surgery, followed by intense chemotherapy treatments, which nearly killed him.
“The chemo they gave me was so strong, after like 10 sessions, my feet were completely paralyzed,” Bodhi added. “I could not walk. I could not even carry glasses anymore. I could not swallow. It was all completely numb.”
Doctors backed off of the rigorous chemo, and Bodhi regained his strength.
In 2010, Bodhi was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, followed by a slew of problems because of the new rounds of chemo he endured.
“So I started getting surgeries after surgeries for everything, little things here and there, everywhere until 2014, when the cancer came back again,” Bodhi said.
Bodhi once again took up the fight, beating colon cancer for a second time, but it came back again in 2016.
“At that moment in 2016, something in my body said, ‘It’s enough,’” he added. “I don’t know, everything changed.”
Bodhi kept getting infection after infection, spending weeks at a time in the hospital.
It was then that the family decided to try something new, looking to integrative treatments, where Bodhi received a specialized blood test that told of the damage the chemo had done.
“(The doctor) explained he had so much chemo, it took all his cells and crushed them,” said Bodhi’s daughter Marjorie Joys. “I remember we were there in the meeting, and she was like, ‘I don’t even know how you’re alive and talking to me. With your results, you should be dead.’”
Spending two years getting IV therapies, as well as supplementation, hyperbaric and other holistic treatments, Bodhi continued to fight through various other complications.
What made him a fighter
Born in Lebanon, Bodhi found himself fighting in the Lebanese Civil War at a young age.
Though he didn’t have a particularly loving family life as a child, he still thanks his father for helping to change the course of his life when he handed him a one-way ticket out of Lebanon. And that was it: Bodhi moved to Belgium, leaving his family and the war behind.
A couple of years later, he met his wife, deciding then to dedicate his life to his family.
Bodhi didn’t stop there, as he also dedicated his life to helping others, traveling the world and doing environmental work to clean beaches and enhance recycling efforts, while also doing philanthropic work, like volunteering with the Red Cross, donating food to the hungry and really just helping anyone in need.
“I had the chance to travel everywhere,” Bodhi said, “so I had a full life.”
When their eldest of four children moved to the U.S., the family chose to follow, as it’s always been a dream of theirs to live in America, moving to California in 2003, then to Santa Clarita shortly after in 2006.
Following the move, Bodhi continued his generosity, taking in his children’s friends when they were homeless, and once his cancer came to light, he began helping other cancer patients, too.
“His doctors praise the positive attitude that he spreads to other patients while in treatment,” Joys said.
Through it all, Bodhi has continued to care for his family most of all, giving them all the love they can have.
“We celebrate every birthday, every Christmas, every holiday together,” Bodhi said. “And when they sit around this table here with me, and I see them all around me, it’s the happiest time of my life.”
How he plans on continuing that fight
When Bodhi began losing weight dramatically a few months ago, he immediately knew something was wrong.
Sure enough, he soon found out that the cancer had begun to spread, with doctors first finding it in his bladder, then intestines and stomach.
“It spread everywhere, and it’s surgically impossible to remove it,” Joys added.
With a terminal cancer diagnosis and Bodhi unwilling to undergo chemo once more, doctors have now put him on hospice, even though he does not yet want to quit fighting.
“If this is the end, I have to accept it, but I will accept it with happiness,” Bodhi said. “I will not accept it with sadness. … So I said, ‘If this is my destiny, it’s my destiny. I did what I have to do on Earth. My kids are OK, but I will still fight it.”
Meanwhile, Bodhi’s family is facing the fact that his diagnosis is terminal, while continuing to support him in the fight for more time.
“We know he might not have 10 years, probably not, but we’re trying to get him the natural treatments so he has maybe until next summer or a year or two,” Joys said.
Now, his new goal is to make it to his 40th wedding anniversary next July, and to walk Joys down the aisle.
“I think we’re all hopeful and hoping to add as long as possible,” Joys added.
The challenges in reaching those goals
Since his first cancer diagnosis in 2009, Bodhi’s constant treatments, complications and surgeries have prevented him from being able to work consistently.
On top of that, he’s since lost his insurance after years of costly treatment, resorting to Medicare, which doesn’t cover alternative treatments.
Now, with insurance policies exceeded and savings accounts depleted, Bodhi’s family has created a GoFundMe to help Bodhi to seek special treatments elsewhere, as he isn’t ready to give up just yet.
“We’re going to try to stop the cancer from growing and hopefully regress it, we don’t know,” Joys said.
Even so, Bodhi’s main concern remains providing for his family, as he doesn’t want to lose their home due to the financial burden of his treatments.