Life is truly what you make of it. Who would've thought that after being diagnosed with brain cancer in May of 1999, living through three craniotomies, and enduring a year of chemotherapy that I would end up working with the biggest names in sports and entertainment? Then 10 years later, who would've thought that I'd finish an Ironman Triathlon (2.4 mi swim, 112 mi bike, 26.2 mi run) in less than 12 hours to celebrate the decad milestone of being cancer free? I believe that prosperity will always follow passion and when you have passion, nothing can stand in your way.
I was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor the size of a racquetball upon college graduation in May 1999. After three craniotomies, the conclusive diagnosis was Primary Central Nervous System Lymphoma, a type of cancer that originates in the brain, with a 5 year median survival rate at the time. I soon began an entire year of chemotherapy through monthly visits to Oregon Health Sciences University, located in beautiful Portland, Oregon. In total, I was treated for 15 consecutive months.
When I finished chemo in July 2000, I already knew I wanted to help people. But getting back into life wasn't easy. At 24 years old there were no support groups or social communities for young adults in recovery from treatment. Psychologically, it was one of the toughest challenges I ever had to endure. I had just graduated college shortly before my diagnosis and by the time I tried to get back into the swing of things, we were in a recession, there were no jobs, and most of my friends had moved on with their careers or moved away. In fact, I asked doctors and nurses in the medical community if there were resources where young adult survivors, like myself, could turn to for help. Nothing was out there, and often times felt marooned as if I were on a deserted island.
But there were silver linings throughout my hardships. While undergoing treatment, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) discovered me and helped with various medical and travel expenses. The LLS also had a national fundraising program called Team in Training (TNT), where participants trained for marathons, century bike rides, and triathlons to raise money in honor of those fighting for their lives. I soon became an honored patient and embraced the cause.
From honored patient, I became an active TNT participant from 2002 through spring 2008. The fitness community in Reno-Tahoe truly embraced me and helped me get back on my feet again. From participant, I became a cycling mentor to 3 year head cycling coach, multiple triathon finisher, marathon finisher, First Connection Volunteer to newly diagnosed patients, and honorary speaker for local events held in the Reno-Tahoe area. My personal efforts through direct participation resulted in over $125,000 in fund raising for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. The national LLS movement raised tens of millions of through my years of participation. While training to compete in races was fun, it was the lifelong friendships I made that truly made everything worthwhile.
I found tremendous career success through start up company I began working for in 2002. Access Pass & Design President, Seth Sheck, was inspired by my story when I began instructing spinning classes at his local gym. "Dude, I love your energy and you play kick ass music", he said. Seth hired me in August that year.
There is something to be said about the determination and grit that the hardships of a cancer diagnosis brings. I have been solely responsible for building Access Pass & Design's presence in the sports industry. The New York Yankees, Boston Bruins, Nevada Wolf Pack, Nike, Red Bull, The SEC, Texas A&M Aggies, Baltimore Ravens, OKC Thunder, San Francisco Giants, Cincinnati Bearcats, UCF Golden Knights, Crossfit, The Gator Bowl, and Minnesota Vikings are just a few that I've had the pleasure to work with over the years.
My friends, family, and medical team were my heroes as I battled through brain cancer. They were my hope, reason, and inspiration through the tough times. They meant the world and I couldn't let them down. To celebrate my 10th year of brain cancer remission, I registered to compete in Ironman Canada for August of 2010. I also wanted to make a statement and raise $10,000 that year. So a few of my trusted colleagues got together for lunch one afternoon and it was decided that My Hometown Heroes would be a scholarship fund for young adult cancer survivors.
I love to travel to new places and have found a passion in photography. Alaska, Galapagos Islands, Yosemite, Lake Tahoe, and Yellowstone are a few places I've enjoyed taking shots. I work a lot but I love what I do. As a friend in the sports industry once said, "Work at something you have a passion for. If you'll do that - trust me, you'll never "work" a day in your life."