There's a "Sock Man" Bringing Joy to Visalia
Eric Anderson smiles in the face of cancer. Some might call him crazy,
but not those who know the 54-year-old former military veteran turned
music instructor and Rotarian. Those who know Eric, know that he leaves
the crazy to his socks.
As Eric undergoes radiation and chemotherapy treatments to ward off rogue
cancer cells, he uses his crazy and colorful socks to inspire those caring
for cancer patients in Visalia. That includes the teams at Kaweah Delta
Medical Center, Sequoia Regional Cancer Center (SRCC), a partnership of
Kaweah Delta and Adventist Health, and Bryson Cancer Care.
"Yeah I have to be here, but they choose to be here," said Eric,
who was diagnosed with cancer at the end of May after his wife Wendy noticed
a lump on his neck. "My 26 years of service in the Air Force is nothing
compared to what you guys do and continue to do for patients."
Eric never would have dreamed that his trip to see the doctor, would lead
him down a path where he faced a seven-week course of radiation treatments
and chemotherapy. Eric's doctor ordered a scan and biopsy of the lump,
which resulted in surgery to remove lymph nodes and the lump. The lump
was the size of an orange, Wendy said.
“From there it’s just been crazy, a whirlwind,” Wendy said.
Crazy socks are now a common site at SRCC, where radiation technicians,
nurses and doctors caring for cancer patients proudly wear the socks Eric
has given them. They have everything imaginable on them - superheroes,
sports teams, pets, cartoon characters and foods – one set even
had a jar of peanut butter on one sock and a jar of jelly on the other.
"This is just a way to thank people who are taking care of people
in a dark and bleak time. The staff choose to be there every day to help
patients get through their suffering," said Eric, who often plays
the sock game with a staff member, where he puts his sock up against a
staff member’s sock, then asks people to vote for the best sock
on his social media page. "When I give them socks, their eyes light
up. They are bright, fun, and a distraction from the seriousness."
Julio Sanchez, a registered nurse at SRCC, said Eric's gesture has
meant the world to the team. "When I learned what he was doing, I
was close to tears. This is our job and we love doing it, but it is always
nice to be appreciated. He is definitely making the world brighter."
Crazy socks were Eric's thing well before his doctor ever said cancer.
As someone who records drumming videos, Eric said the colorful socks cut
the glare of his pale bare feet on video. Soon, crazy socks became the
gift of choice for Eric on birthdays and holidays; his collection includes
about 100 pairs.
When her husband decided that he wanted to start giving socks to his "bros
at radiation," she went shopping. She bought 50 pairs of socks that
trip. However, as word got around, the couple's mailbox filled with
socks. Wendy's service club, Visalia Sunset Rotary, even held a sock
drive for Eric.
"There have been times when he couldn't eat or drink, but socks
were coming in the mail and even with him feeling bad, it made him smile,"
Wendy said. "I think it's so amazing what people are doing. These
socks are making an impact and that's the coolest thing. They are
bringing people closer together who would have never known each other."
Michelle Adams, a Registered Nurse at SRCC, said Eric’s Looney Toons
socks made quite an impression when she first met him. “Julio said,
‘Wait till you meet this guy and see his socks,’” she
said. Michelle was there to start Eric’s IV; he had come to the
cancer center for radiation planning and was laying on the table wearing
Looney Toons socks.
After caring for Eric and getting to know him and his socks, Michelle is
a fan. “I’m a big fan of the fun socks too, so I’ve
decided I’m going to wear them every day in support of him,”
she said, pointing to a pair of socks with bacon and eggs on them.
When he’s had a surplus of socks, Eric has even been able to give
socks to cancer patients. Eric and his wife have seen patients wearing
them during treatments.
Mary Kay Akins and her husband Michael, who has cancer, were happy to get
a pair. They had heard about the socks for weeks and luckily ran into
Eric and Wendy after his treatment one day; they were holding buckets
of crazy socks. "We're all about humor and know that you have
to laugh especially when it feels like you can't. Something like this
is a little thing that helps you get through the serious."
In addition, with the kindness and compassion displayed by the team at
Sequoia Regional Cancer Center, Akins said it was no wonder the Andersons
wanted to give back. "The people here are awesome," she said.
"Every single person puts their heart on the line every single day
for their patients."
Michelle said she puts her heart out there for patients because kindness
comes back to her and that will be the case for Eric. “My mom was
also an RN and she told me the kindness you give, you always get back
tenfold,” she said. “Here at the cancer center, it’s
true. It’s an absolute privilege to take care of our patients here,
they are wonderful.”
To read more about Eric and his journey with cancer or to find out more
about his crazy socks, visit Facebook/apsdrums.