Why Did I Receive a Make-A-Wish Gift? My Battle With Cancer [VIDEO]
I'm 31 years old. I work out regularly at Miramont Lifestyle Fitness. I'm pretty healthy. Most people would never think, "I bet that guy had cancer." I wouldn't expect them to, now that I'm closing in on 15 years of cancer-free living.
But back when I was 17, Make-A-Wish granted a wish for me because of what I was enduring. And most people's first question is, "What did you have?"
It was a rhabdomayosarcoma.(Rhabdomyosarcoma is a childhood cancer that begins in cells that will become skeletal muscle cells. These muscle cells grow uncontrollably and form masses or lumps called tumors.) Basically I had a giant tumor inside my chest.
At first I thought I had pulled a muscle while lifting weights. Then a chiropractor thought I might have dislocated a rib. Then the diagnosis was pneumonia, but after a week and a half of suffering I went in for an x-ray and they discovered this:
A tumor with a 15-cm diameter that had grown big enough to completely collapse my right lung. (That's about the size of a small football.) Next came the painful biopsy and the dreadful wait. They had to send samples off to find out if my tumor was benign or malignant.
Let's say I didn't have high hopes as they planned to have the results back that Friday...Friday March 13th, 1998.
It was cancer and I was transported to Presbyterian St. Luke's Hospital in Denver where my family was given grim news. The tumor was too big to take out without killing me, so they were going to try some very aggressive, experimental chemotherapy to try and shrink it. If it worked I had a fighting chance. If not…I had days at best.
Now for those of you not familiar with what chemotherapy is I’ll give you the explanation my doctor gave me. “We’re going to poison you just enough to not kill you. And hopefully that poison will kill the cancer.”
Sounds fun, huh?
It was a hellish string of treatments and in two weeks I had shrunk from 195 pounds to 163. But the tumor had shrunk too! Within a few months the tumor had been reduced to about the size of a grapefruit and I was scheduled for open heart surgery to remove it in July.
Open heart surgery is no picnic, but I did get a break from chemo to have the surgery done. They cracked me open, cut out the tumor along with 1/3 of my right lung and part of my pericardial sac (Which is now patched with gortex, ‘aint science cool!). I was left with a 9-inch scar down my chest and barely able to sit up or breathe for weeks, but the cancer was gone!
After I got a month to heal from that it was on to more chemo for 6 months and then on December 19th, 1998 I was pronounced cancer-free and have lived in full remission ever since.
There were a lot of horrible things that went on in my life that year, many of which I’d rather note write about and I’m sure you’d rather not read about.
There are still side affects that trip me up now-and-again, and the ever looming fear that I’m more than twice as likely as any other human being to develop a different kind of cancer.
But I tell you, even as a junior in high school the fact that the Make-A-Wish foundation came to me and offered me a wish was unforgettable.
That organization was so gracious, so thorough, and so selfless that I will never forget the things they did for me. Just having my ‘wish’ to look forward to was enough to get me through an afternoon of intense pain and vomiting.
To me, that is the best thing they do. They give kids hope…something to look forward to.
When you’re lying in the medical bed watching an IV drip poison into your blood that you know will make you feel worse than you’ve ever felt before, it’s hard to want to keep going.
Life-altering illnesses like cancer take your life away, at least for awhile, but it can’t take your dreams.
This is why I am so supportive to Make-A-Wish.
I feel like they kept my dreams alive and now every year I try my best to give back so they can make those same dreams come true for other kids going through horrible ordeals.
Ordeals they don’t deserve to be facing.
Below is the story that 9News did on me as a teenager. A 3-part series that details some of my battle. (And by the time it gets to the third segment you find out just how long I've been in love with radio).