EAST DEER (KDKA) — A man from East Deer is celebrating something pretty special.
He is celebrating life after battling cancer, and passing on a message to others to live their dreams and never give up the fight.
“It’s never the same feeling, always hurting somewhere my back, my arms, my legs, but you learn to live through it. You learn to get through it,” Joe Harris says.
Harris used to be a landscaper and a construction worker until something robbed him of his strength.
“When it came to life, losing just wasn’t an option,” he says.
Testicular cancer was his diagnosis, but it had spread to his lungs and brain.
“I have part of my skull missing after my second brain surgery, many rounds of chemo, many rounds of radiation, two stem cell bone marrow transplants,” Harris says.
In his words, he was at death’s door but he battled back.
“From all of the IV steroids and all of the chemo I received, it completely destroyed the ball of my shoulder and I had to have an entire shoulder replacement,” Harris said.
So, he turned to something he always wanted to be — a barber.
“When I was younger, my mom bought me a set of really cheap Wahl blades from Walmart, my friends and I would just shave each other’s heads,” he says.
And when he’s not cutting hair, he focuses on being dad.
“These two guys right here, without these guys, there’s not a doubt in my mind that I would not, I wouldn’t have made it,” Harris said. “Without my wife bringing the kids to see me, even though I beg her, ‘Don’t come down today, don’t come down today,’ and she would bring them down, and without that, there’ s no doubt in my mind I would not be here today.”
His wife, Katrina, says Joe put up a fight like a champ.
“He’s never given up, and that’s the main thing, you can’t give up when stuff like this happens,” she says.
Now, two years cancer free, life is getting better. Just like his haircuts.
And his next step, transforming a shoe repair shop into a barber shop of his own.
“Hopefully, for a long time to come after that,” he says. “I think it will be great.”