Community Champion: Savannah survivor makes cancer awareness trip

Updated: Nov. 18, 2020 at 4:51 PM EST
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - A positive attitude is one of the most effective weapons in the fight against cancer.

Philip Odell worked out hard to get ready for a cross-country drive. But the drive to survive was always inside of him.

“You’ve got six weeks of radiation and you have to go in there every day. And you must pump yourself up for that,” Odell.

Odell fought through three cancer diagnoses in less than two years, beating prostate cancer most recently after battling lung cancer and initially being told he had throat cancer in August 2018.

“That was Stage 4 B, so it was as bad as it gets,” he said. “I walked to my car and I was thinking, did he just tell me I’m going to die?”

But the reaction Odell heard about his illnesses from some close to him was worse.

“They were just so negative about getting the treatments, saying why would you want to go through all of that. Are you kidding me? Some of your friends are the worst ones. They tell you to give up. They’re not your friends at that point.”

Odell decided to drive to all 48 continental states sharing that message.

But first, he needed the right car - a 2020 Corvette C8 convertible, which was the third one made when he picked it up at the National Corvette Museum just before Labor Day.

“If I was driving an old car, nobody would have paid attention. But that car got everyone’s attention and nobody had any qualms about walking up and talking to me about it.”

Which, because of the stickers he put on the side of the car, usually turned to conversations about cancer. Those started with what a couple told him when they flagged him down just 30 miles into his trip.

“We’re not stalking you. We’re on our way to the Mayo Clinic. Can we take a picture of your car for good luck? In I think Nevada, somebody came by with a 4-year-old little girl that had cancer for a year and wanted to know if she could sit in the car.”

He spoke to widowers.

“The guy cried for a half hour sitting there telling me about his wife.”

And people who had just received their cancer news.

“I hardly ever got to tell anybody about my cancer. people would see the car, ask me what it was about, I would tell them and then they would tell me their story.”

Across five weeks and 12,000 miles, this WTOC Community Champion had people cry to him, confide in him and always come away encouraged.

“Everywhere I went, I talked to different groups of people, and the idea was, don’t give up.”

Back in Wilmington Islands for three weeks, Odell is still fighting his own fight.

“To be honest, he’s stronger than when he left, his attitude hasn’t changed a bit. He’s still ready to conquer the world.”

And change the way it looks at cancer.

“Just to talk to people about their situation, not give up, make people aware of cancer. And if they have friends to talk.”

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