Steven Giallourakis: Osteosarcoma and Acute Myeloid Leukemia

    Prior to getting cancer, I didn’t have any really serious problems growing up in surburbia. My head was always in the clouds, which means I wasn’t very grounded—I’m still not—and I’m ADHD. How’s that for a combo? Then, I get cancer, for the first time, when I’m 15.

    Life during my sophomore year was pretty typical until that point—I was focused on my schoolwork and playing a few sports. When I started getting localized stiffness in my back around December 2006, I went to see this older doc. As you might expect, he ordered a chest x-ray, even though my chest didn’t hurt. He did an x-ray of my back—nothing there. I was sent home to get some physical therapy.

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    Kurt Weiss: Osteosarcoma

    Story by Ryan Hart

    When Dr. Kurt Weiss was fifteen years old, he swam and played football as an honors student in his freshman year at North Hills High School in the Pittsburgh area.  He had always wanted to go to Notre Dame like his sister, and become an engineer like his dad. That was the plan.

    Then that spring he was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in his tibia (shin bone).  Of course, at the time it was seen as such a huge burden, thinking of all the school he would have to miss.

    Coming came across his story shocked me—I followed a similar tract with an Osteosarcoma diagnosis that was seen at first as a huge inconvenience, then heading to M.D. Anderson after diagnosis.  It is an honor to write about how Dr. Weiss has turned the pain of cancer into the purpose of his life’s work.

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    George Karl: Prostate and Squamous Cell Head and Neck Cancer

    GKCoachYearI had a lot going on when I was first diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2005. The day before I got diagnosed, I was getting my team ready for its first playoff game against the San Antonio Spurs. I had also started a second life with a new family and had a six month old. I was 52 at the time and scared: I didn’t know a lot about cancer.

    Obviously, prostate cancer kills people, but for many, including myself, the treatment was more or less navigating options: potential side effects and outcomes. Was my sexual function going to be impacted, for example. I didn’t have to make any immediate decisions, but I ended up having surgery to remove it.

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    Doug Friedt: Squamous cell carcinoma

    Story by Kevin Bang.

    unnamed-2Drive on.

    Those two words best describe Doug Friedt’s approach to his cancer journey.

    “When you hear that you have cancer, it is a horrible moment,” Doug recalled to me over lunch one Friday afternoon this summer. “Shock, fear, the unknown. Al of those things go through your head. One thing I never did, and I think this was key to my treatment, is that I never said or wondered ‘why me.’ I thought that would be wasted energy, and I needed to concentrate on treatment and getting better. I had a great medical team, great support and did not want to spend time feeling sorry for myself.”

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    Neil Taylor: Brain cancer

    IMG_0380I had to rewrite my life. I almost didn’t get the chance to.

    I was 28 years old, teaching math and gym at a school for learning disabled boys—ones with ADHD, ADD, mild autism or Asperger’s. I also lived with them as a dorm dad, acting like a surrogate father. I loved my job. It was a really cool experience to work with those kids.

    But something strange was going on with me. I had some unusual numbness in my face. I’d get tunnel vision in my left eye that would come and go pretty quickly. I also had an experience trying to communicate a sentence in my head, but I just couldn’t verbalize it. With the way I was at the time, I just swept all of it under the carpet, figured I’d get some more sleep and would be fine tomorrow. I was 28. Who thinks anything’s wrong with them at that age?

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    Michael Diamond: Hodgkin's Lymphoma

    Michael Diamond 1I was 28, feeling great and healthy and in the best shape since college. Then about five months into a new job, I noticed a lump on my neck in the work bathroom.

    I didn’t think too much of it at first because I used to get cysts from time to time and thought it was another one. As it happened, I had a doctor’s appointment previously scheduled, and I mentioned the cyst to him as an afterthought. He wasn’t too concerned and gave me some antibiotics to calm it down. After it didn’t go away, he scheduled me for a CT scan.

    Back then I used to be a doom-and-gloom kind of guy. I immediately thought the worst: cancer. When he called and told me that it was Stage 2 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, I was completely beside myself. I called my parents and bawled. I thought, “Is this the end?”

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    Doug Carey: Testicular Cancer

    doug carey 2aFour years ago, I was working for this giant construction company; there was a lot of responsibility and overtime, but I got my annual raises, too.  I was stashing away money and planning a white picket-fence-kind-of-dream life of buying a house and starting a family with my girlfriend.  Ever since I was young, I remembered learning about the importance of checking your testicles.  One day, I found something in my left testicle that just didn’t feel right.

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    Patrick Eck: Acute Lymphosidic Leukemia

    IMG_1642I have this drive now that was missing years ago—to volunteer more, to participate in more cancer-related activities, to advance my career.  I’m happy that I’ve integrated myself more and more into the cancer awareness community.  I’ve got a pretty stable life, a good job, and I feel good.  It’s a great feeling.

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    Jonny Imerman: Testicular Cancer

    Jonny2After treatment, my life looked a lot different at 28 from the lives of my friends who were in their 20s. I thought differently.  I loved them and they were great friends and I didn’t judge them, but I felt I could see things—at least in my mind—more clearly.

    I saw that life wasn’t just about having the most money or the most stuff.  When you’re sick and fighting for your life, you could care less about how big your house is or if you’re wearing an Armani suit.  In fact, in many ways material objects don’t make us any happier and cloud us.  For me, it’s about giving back and leaving a footprint on the world, making it a better place because you were there.

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    Larry Ali: Rhabdomyosarcoma

    DSCN0220I was twenty-three, and what started out as a hernia turned out to be muscle cancer. When I got the news, I went to my car and broke down. I just unraveled. At that moment, I didn’t know who I was, where I was, where I was going or if I’d be there. That was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to deal with, my worst nightmare come true. And I’m a pretty tough character to break because I’ve always been so positive.

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    Craig Stein: Colon Cancer

    Craig Stein 2The best analogy I can find is a racehorse . . . that never raced. That is my life. A gifted athlete, who for various reasons never turned pro. The energy is still there, the mindset, the desire, the competitive spirit, but the opportunity has been lost.

    The opposite of racing is pasturing. I don’t exactly see my life as out to pasture, not in the least. But it certainly lacks some flow, the flow of an athlete or a racehorse in motion.

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    Scott Minnig: Testicular Cancer

    minnig26From having one testicle, to the scars, to the charity I founded, Beards4Balls—cancer is still a big part of me. I want to keep it that way.

    My diagnosis came at an apex of stress and challenge in 2009. I was 33, my first daughter was three months old, and I was a financial investment advisor in the middle of the credit crisis crash. I wasn’t sleeping much with the new baby, my income was down 40%, I had a bunch of new expenses, and—oh, here you go—here’s some cancer to deal with.

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    Joe Long: Testicular Cancer

    DSC00171When I was diagnosed at 26 with testicular cancer, all I wanted was to feel normal.  I didn’t want people looking after me or feeling sorry for me; that would have given the cancer more gravity.  If I could keep things normal and hold a positive attitude, I felt that I had a better chance of getting through my treatments.

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    Ian Benson: Hodgkin's Lymphoma

    Ian Benson 2I’ve gone through things my friends wouldn’t believe.  It’s strange to look back on the horrors from my time fighting cancer—the chemo, the radiation and the painkillers.  I didn’t know anyone my age who had cancer—I felt like I was the first to face it.  Even though I felt supported by friends and family throughout my treatment, there were still those moments when it was impossible to articulate how I felt.  The support could only go so far—they could only sympathize—they couldn’t truly, fully empathize with what happened.

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    Heath Saltis: Testicular Cancer

    Heath with DorothyI’ve been through testicular cancer, seizures, ulcerative colitis, hyperthyroidism, blod clots. And operations—if anything goes wrong with me, you just take it out. So the motto I come back to is “Don’t worry about something until something happens.”

    I was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 1990, when I was eighteen and I’d just started my music career in Los Angeles. The docs weren’t sure how the cancer had moved around in my body; they just knew it grew way too fast. So I had my testicle extracted. About a month later, I chose to have a full upper lymph node dissection rather than six months of radiation. This was before Lance Armstrong.

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    Jasan Zimmerman: Neuroblastoma and Thyroid Cancer

    Jennifer Jasan1161In 1976, no one thought I was going to be around 18 months, let alone 37 years. I wasn’t supposed to make it. When I was six months old, I got a neuroblastoma underneath my neck and was treated with radiation. I had check-ups every three months until I was five, then every six months after that.

    I don’t know what it’s like not living with cancer, since I was sick as a baby. It gave me this never-quit attitude: if someone said I couldn’t do something, I wanted to show them that I could. It’s not an attitude I thought up—it’s just always been there.

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    Daniel Bral: Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma

    Daniel Bral 3I was 11 years old when I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. I was misdiagnosed about six or seven times over a period of two months. At first, the doctors thought it was the flu or pediatric onset asthma. By the time they finally confirmed I had cancer, time was ticking. A metastasized tumor was compressing my windpipe, leaving only two millimeters of air space. Had they not diagnosed it right when they did, I would have suffocated and died.

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    Orry Night: Hodgkin's Lymphoma

    Orry 2I have a pretty wide, eclectic group of friends, but a lot of them are in their early 20s or late teens, and they didn’t really know how to relate to me: they didn’t want to overstep or they didn’t think they had the right words. It was tough. Even after I was in remission, it was hard for me to talk to my friends about what was going on. They were rising through the ranks of their professions or graduating and I always felt like I was driving much slower. A lot of times I wouldn’t want to talk to anybody. It drove me insane because if you spend any time with me, you’ll see that’s just not the type of person I am. Many times, I definitely lost a piece of mind.

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    Coby Karl: Papillary Thyroid Cancer

    Coby KarlPeople doubting me—it’s kind of a theme for me.  In high school, I didn’t make the varsity team until my junior year.  I wasn’t all-state and didn’t get any scholarship offers coming out of high school.  I was a walk-on at Boise State and ended up working my way up to first-team all conference my senior year.  But I heard from time-to-time—whether it’s a fan in the crowd or someone’s mom or just some random person—that I am who I am because of who my father is.  He’s an NBA coach.  But I earned the spot where I’m at now.

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