As the #1 in the 904 contest progressed this month, the Void team was lucky enough to encounter an individual who impacted us in more ways than one. Though there wasn’t a specific category in the contest dedicated to him, I decided to go ahead and name him the #1 Fighter in the 904. It fits him quite nicely. Based on some of the results of this year’s contest, we gave this individual a #1 Day in the 904, Void style.
Todd Blake is a vibrant 23-year-old and a Jacksonville native. He is passionate about writing and recording music, loves to cook, and hopes to visit New Zealand someday. He’s one of those people that when you meet them, you feel like you’ve been friends for a very long time.
His outlook on life is contagious to say the least.
Blake’s freshman year of college wasn’t a normal situation for many young adults beginning this exciting new chapter in life. A month into classes at the University of Florida, he was hit with bizarre health symptoms. He would fall asleep often, go through night sweats and eventually he felt a small lump on his neck. The symptoms soon lead to a heart-wrenching diagnosis. Cancer. Stage IV Hodgkin’s lymphoma to be exact.
No one likes that word. It’s an ugly word with an ugly outcome.
“When I actually was told it was cancer, I was overcome by a wave of emotions – shock, disbelief, fear, indignation and despair. How could someone so young and seemingly healthy be diagnosed with a life-threatening disease?” said Blake. After hearing the news, Todd packed up his dorm room and headed home to take on a journey that would change his life forever.
After eight months of chemotherapy, Todd was able to live “normal” again. The worries of the disease were still prevalent, but nevertheless he was able to go back to a somewhat regular routine. Three months into remission and enjoying his summer, a PET scan was taken to see if Todd was still cancer-free. That day proved to be the worst day in his life. The cancer had come back.
Todd’s goals and outlooks on life changed as his cancer progressed. When he was first diagnosed, his goal was to live normally again. After a relapse, he searched for a purpose in life. That purpose being marrying the love of his life, Maja, and starting a young adult cancer organization called Live for Today.
In the midst of over 600 hours of chemotherapy and two bone marrow transplants, Todd also decided to enroll in the University of Florida’s online school and managed to graduate summa cum laude with a 4.0 GPA.
“To give up on college would be to give up on my aspirations,” Blake said. “The second you give up on your dreams, you stop living. Hope is a powerful motivator for life.”
Todd is a now a four-time cancer survivor and is still battling the disease today. This terrible turn of events has yet to stop him from doing the things he loves, and his willingness to adventure has only been strengthened.
“In light of all this, I try to live each day with purpose,” Blake said. “What does that mean? In practice, some days it means I wake up and question whether or not I would do what I am planning to do today if today were my last day on earth. Other days, it means finding a small part of the day to savor the good things in my life – my wife, my family, my friends, Live for Today, and all of the wonderful opportunities God puts in my path on a day-to-day basis.”
Todd is currently getting into commercial real estate. The downtown Jacksonville redevelopment and revitalization excites him. He enjoys making music with his wife, and hopes to someday record an album with her. He also hopes to write a short book about his life adventures.
“It’s not like cancer patients are some type of romanticized heroes,” Blake said. “We are just normal people fighting for our lives. None of us truthfully know what will happen to us when we die. Consequently, life is the most important thing worth fighting for. Everything else pales in comparison.”