I’m not different than any of you. I have a family, a job, and hobbies. The only thing that might differ me from you is that I have had different opportunities in life that I have taken advantage of. I am not ashamed to say that. I have a wonderful, caring wife that I pursued when she showed an interest in me. I earned a doctoral degree when my master’s program assistantship was graciously continued for me. I qualified for the Boston Marathon when my training buddies and I decided to work together towards a common goal. I beat cancer when I was afforded the knowledge of my situation and decided my treatment options. It is all about opportunities. But don’t wait for the opportunities, seek out those opportunities and find a way to embrace them to the fullest.
My wife and I got married in 2007. That year we also moved, both started new jobs, and bought a house. And yes, we are still married. We have a beautiful, energetic daughter and a handsome, inquisitive young son. My wife and I actually met due to our love of running and fitness. She was one of the runners in our local run shop’s group and I ran with the group and worked at Varsity Sports. So you could say that my love for running and helping folks run really started around the time that we met. She truly has helped me blossom in so many aspects of my love for fitness, sportsmedicine, and teaching.
I have been a certified athletic trainer since 1997 and got my doctorate in kinesiology in 2006. I started playing soccer when I was about five and I ran my first road race in 1987 and every year since then. I broke my wrist my junior year in high school and it was then that I found my fascination with the human machine. Combine that with my passion for being active, and my life path was laid before me.
But that path had a major bump in it in March 2001 when I was diagnosed with testicular cancer. I was 25 years old and had just completed my first full marathon as a member of Team in Training. I was in graduate school at Louisiana State University at the time and was working in their athletic training department with the gymnastics and football teams (yes, I know, seemingly very different athlete). In the weeks following the New Orleans Mardi Gras Marathon, I noticed an uncomfortable feeling in my groin area. So while many college students headed to the beach for their spring break, I made an appointment with our team physician, Dr. Jeff Burnham, to get my painful testicle examined. After a few minutes in Dr. Burnham’s office, he referred me to an urologist, Dr. Jimmy Morris, for further examination. After his examination and a scrotal ultrasound, my diagnosis of testicular cancer was confirmed.
At that point, everything went a bit foggy – my prognosis, my treatment options, and my surgery schedule discussions were all kind of a blur for me. It was late afternoon when all this happened and I was the last car in the parking lot when I walked outside after my appointment. That was a great example of nature reflecting the human condition. I truly felt alone. I was 25-years old and I was just diagnosed with cancer! What?! Cancer?!After I quit screaming “why” in my car and wiping away the tears, I had to call my family back in New Jersey and tell my parents, that their only son, and my sister, that her only sibling, had cancer.
However, I saw cancer as another opportunity for me: Have surgery to remove the testicle and tumor, schedule my treatment plan, and then go forth and tell folks how to take care of themselves and be healthy. I have had a clean bill of health and clear scans since my surgery so I am very lucky. But I like to think that my choices and lifestyle both harmed and enhanced my likelihood for my cancer diagnosis. And yes, I wouldn’t have changed that opportunity for the anything.
So don’t let an illness define you. Don’t let a job shape you. Don’t be scared of what might lie ahead of you. Be brave in the pursuit of your dreams. And if your not quite sure what those are and are not patient enough to wait for them, then use every ounce of your life, every thread of your existence, every moment of your experiences and make it happen. Because you never know when that “perfect path” laid before you will hit a bump and you’ll have to push forward anyway.