So, this time last year you were our cover model. We miss you! You were also battling cancer and fighting for your life. One year later, and you recently found out that you are CANCER FREE! We’re ecstatic beyond words! Can you tell us a little more about how you found out and how you felt at that moment in time?
I miss you guys too! This past year has been an unbelievable turn of events in my life. Just as recently as May, I was under the impression that I was buying time in my fight against cancer. I was on my sixth or seventh experimental therapy in a period of two years, of which none had previously worked. I was five and a half years into a battle with Hodgkin’s lymphoma with supposedly no curative options remaining. I had accepted this disease as my fate and was living in spite of that fact.
When I went in for my first PET scan to find out if the newest experimental drug I was on was working, I had low expectations to say the least. I was just hoping to hear that my disease was stable — that it hadn’t gotten worse. I was absolutely shocked to learn that my doctor could not find any detectable cancer in my body. This was the first truly “clean” PET scan I had received since 2009. I mean think back to what you were doing in 2009, a lot has happened since then. Even my doctors and medical team felt that this outcome was nothing short of a miracle. Full remission was the long-shot come-back grand slam in the bottom of the ninth for the win. No one saw it coming.
Just a few weeks ago, I received a three month follow-up scan, and I am still in remission — another first. That seems to be the trend lately, a lot of firsts and positive momentum. It’s really incredible to be in my position, cancer free, five and a half years later, after I had all but given up on my future.
The weird thing is, it’s actually been really hard adjusting to survivorship. But, you don’t just snap back to normal after slowly learning to accept your seemingly impending fate. So, I’m learning who I am supposed to be after cancer and what to do with the insight I gained along the journey.
What’s something that you’re really looking forward to doing that you weren’t able to do before because of cancer?
There are so many things, surfing, traveling, even working full-time again. But the most important thing is just having hope for the future again. The hope of starting a family, raising children and building a life together with my wife.
How is Live for Today and your whole amazing crew of humans over there? Anything exciting happening?
Live For Today is growing really fast, and while that’s sad because it means young adults in Jacksonville are being diagnosed with cancer, it also means more young people who are facing cancer are finding out about us and are able to meet other young people who understand exactly what it feels like to face cancer at this age. We have over 70 patients and survivors who have joined, and we are growing at nearly five members a month. I’m just thankful that there is something here in Jacksonville to support each one of these young adult patients and survivors.
Aside from the support aspect, there are always exciting things going on. We just sent a young woman who survived Ewing’s sarcoma to Napa Valley for an amazing hot air balloon ride and several private winery tours to celebrate her tenth wedding anniversary. We also just held a really fun carnival-themed surprise party for one of our survivor’s birthdays. There’s also a great Halloween fundraiser coming up at Casa Marina on October 28 with a costume contest and live music from the Chris Thomas Band. It should be a lot of fun!
What was your favorite part of shooting with our crazy crew last year?
My favorite parts were definitely the water sports — the surfing and wake-boarding. Surfing at sunrise with Cody Thompson was a great experience, not to mention that it led to me meeting his brother Trey, who was diagnosed with a rare brain cancer only a few days after we met. It was one of those weird instances where two people’s live intersect and it feels like it was meant to happen.
What’s one thing you’d like to tell someone dealing with a life struggle?
I would be empathetic to their struggle, but try to show them that everyone is dealing with something. I always told myself that no matter what life threw at me, someone had it worse. That was one way I got through it. I also frequently reminded myself of the old adage, “This too shall pass.” Everything in this life is temporary — our struggles, pains, successes and failures. For me, I found my ultimate fulfillment and satisfaction in faith. It took something horrible for me to realize I wasn’t in control in this life.
Ultimately, our struggles can lead us to growth. For me, the benefits of living more purposefully after cancer far outweigh the negatives of going through the hard times. You just have to be hopeful, patient, positive and faithful that your struggle may actually be steering you in a better direction.