Nine small medicine containers are situated in a straight line on the wooden table inside Kirk Derbyshire’s living room.

Derbyshire, a 53-year-old New Whiteland resident in remission from cecal cancer – a form of colorectal cancer – since May, is capable of finding humor in a scary situation.

“That’s breakfast,” he said.

A moment later, Derbyshire lights a filtered Camel cigarette. A smoker since he was 17, Derbyshire hasn’t been able to break his pack-a-day habit, even after getting cancer.

Story continues below gallery

Click here to purchase photos from this gallery

Maybe one day.

Today is not that day.

Derbyshire knows how it looks. But he isn’t about to tempt fate by becoming someone entirely different. He’s made it this far being Kirk Derbyshire.

“I did not change my lifestyle. I did not let cancer get me down. I don’t sit around and mope about it and get sad and depressed,” said Derbyshire, whose sleeveless Harley Davidson shirt exposes many of his nine tattoos. “I go out there like everything is fine.

“(Cancer) has slowed me down, but I don’t let it get me down. I’m still the same person. I’ve just slowed down some. And here I am in remission. My body has been accustomed to this for years. If I go change it all of a sudden, my body may not react well.”

It was three years ago Derbyshire began experiencing severe abdominal pains. What he believed was a hernia was so much more.

“In the mornings it’s rough on me. It takes me a couple hours once I wake up to get going. I tire very easily now. I just don’t have the stamina I once had.”
—Kirk Derbyshire

Derbyshire was put on anti-inflammatory medicine with instructions to come back if his condition didn’t improve.

“I got on the medicine and started feeling great, so I forgot about it,” he said. “At the end of June, first of July I was helping a buddy of mine do some painting. It started bothering me again. I was in so much pain I didn’t sleep for three days.”

Derbyshire’s longstanding stubbornness when it comes to avoiding medical care was being tested like never before.

His wife, Terri, finally convinced him to see a doctor.

The diagnosis: cecal cancer, which Derbyshire, then 50, admits he didn’t take as seriously as he should have.

Derbyshire would undergo two colon resections at Community South Hospital. The first, performed August 2013, removed one foot of Derbyshire’s colon along with 18 inches of small intestine and his appendix.

Unfortunately, during the ensuing six months and 13 treatments of chemotherapy the tumors grew back and spread to Derbyshire’s liver and one of his kidneys.

Another foot of colon and 18 inches of small intestine were removed during the second surgery, which took place August 2014. Derbyshire’s second surgery also corrected three hernias.

His current lineup of medicines ranges from methadone for pain management to baby aspirin for the five mild heart attacks Derbyshire suffered in a span of nine days in May.

After surgery, his weight dropped from 195 to 160, but since has gone back up to 184.

“Doctors wanted me to change my diet and quit smoking. I don’t have a good diet. I don’t eat. If I eat I’m straight to the bathroom. I can’t hold it,” Derbyshire said.

“In the mornings it’s rough on me. It takes me a couple hours once I wake up to get going. I tire very easily now. I just don’t have the stamina I once had.”

Derbyshire usually eats one meal each day. Oftentimes it’s a bowl of oatmeal, fresh fish or something he feels is digestible. Gone is one of his favorites: steak.

And he’s also had to make other changes to his life.

In 2012, he found his own version of heaven on earth when he attended his first Bean Blossom BikerFest, an annual event in Morgantown designed to attract motorcyclists from around the Midwest. Derbyshire loves Harley Davidson motorcycles — he owns six, and isn’t apologetic about riding them without a helmet.

The timing of his surgeries combined with his need to recover forced him to miss the last three Bean Blossoms. Chances are good Derbyshire won’t attend this year’s event either.

But he has still made trips to Florida to visit family and longtime friends and wants to return this winter since his son, 20-year-old Dylan, is a student at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach.

Maybe Derbyshire has slowed down, but he’s nowhere near the point of wanting to stop.

“You just go on, man,” Derbyshire said. “That’s all you can do.”


Name: Kirk Derbyshire

Age: 53

Residence: New Whiteland

Date diagnosed: August 2013

Type of cancer: Colon

Treatment: Two colon resection surgeries, 13 rounds of chemotherapy.

What cancer taught me

Life is short. It’s way too short. I take my time now. I don’t get in a hurry about nothing. It used to be I couldn’t wait for tomorrow. I just want things to slow down.

How cancer changed me

I’ve settled down. I’m more of a homebody and not out running around. Doing something. I’ve got a woodshop in my garage, and I mean I would be out there working sometimes until 2 in the morning. I haven’t really been out there since all this cancer stuff.

What would I tell someone just diagnosed with cancer

Don’t give up. I gave up in a way. I shouldn’t even be here. I should have died two-and-a-half years ago. I had an emergency surgery where they took a foot of my colon, a foot-and-a-half of my small intestines and cut three tumors out of my colon.

Author photo
Mike Beas is a sports writer for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at