The year 2010 began with a bachelor party and ended with cancer. I was 35-½ years old and embarking on a new life, when I was diagnosed with astrocytoma (a type of brain cancer). I had just sold my restaurant delivery business in Dallas and was moving up to Portland, Oregon, to be with my wife Katy; we had just gotten married.
For 10 years, I had delivered food for places like Chili’s, Big Daddy’s, and some mom-and-pop shops. I was the forerunner to UberEATS, working 7 days a week behind the wheel. My only regret was that I had missed the curve; everybody has an app for food delivery these days.
Right before the move to Portland in August, I had experienced some numbness for a couple of minutes in my right leg, as if it had fallen asleep. It happened on and off, but I wasn’t too worried about it. Katy thought I should get it checked, but I ignored it. Then we came home from a baseball game, and the numbness started again. This time, I felt a crazy pulsing in my stomach. I lay down and went into a full grand mal seizure.
An Interrupted Surgery
The next day, the doctors found a tumor the size of 2 marbles at the top of my head. They did surgery the day after to remove the tumor, but the operation was interrupted while I was under anesthesia. The radiologist had not gotten enough pictures of my head, so they stopped the surgery, and I had to be pulled out from being under.
My surgeon, considered one of the best in the country, “freaked out,” as did my family and friends. Eventually, the hospital made it right, and they completed the surgery a couple of days later.
They removed about 60% to 70% of the tumor. They didn’t want to take out too much, which could have affected my motor skills. I’m a runner, so keeping my motor skills intact was very significant for me. About a month after the surgery, I was receiving oral chemotherapy for 1 year—1 week on, 3 weeks off.
Once I stopped the chemo, I started to go in for checkups every few months. I’d found a neuro-oncologist who was happy to “wait and see” how the tumor responded to the treatment.
A Progressive Cancer
Astrocytoma is a progressive cancer, which means it will tend to keep coming back. Last summer, I had some trouble in my left eye because of the tumor, and I was told that if I didn’t get radiation, I would lose my sight in that eye. I took a leave from work for 6 weeks and got treatment at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, in Houston, Texas. I was nervous at first, but the treatment was relatively painless, and my sight is now normal again.
Changing My Lifestyle
As soon as I was diagnosed, I decided to take my health into my own hands. I made sure I was doing everything I could to be healthy, researching what other people with my diagnosis had done.
For the past 6 years, I’ve been learning how to detox my body, take the right supplements, and eat the right food.
Katy and I had been eating an 80% to 20% vegetable-to-meat diet, but after my diagnosis we became almost entirely vegan, with few exceptions. For example, when we were in Mexico to celebrate our anniversary, we had some fish and cheese, but then, when you’re on vacation, you have to do this.
Katy is very supportive. She’s been on board with all my changes, and she has become an amazing vegan cook.
I’ve also been juicing fruits and vegetables every day for 7 years. On my first day back home from the hospital, I was making and drinking juices. There was even a time when I was making and drinking about 8 juices a day, usually carrot and green.
I continue to run, I started using an ozone canopy machine to get as much oxygen in me as possible, and I was getting intravenous injections of vitamin C that I learned about in my travels through Mexico. I’m going to do all I can—everything that my doctor tells me to do, as well as this full range of alternative medicine.
Dr. Fink, my doctor at Baylor University Medical Center, and Dr. Barbara O’Brien, my neuro-oncologist, as well as the holistic doctors I’ve been working with, think we can slow down this tumor. At least Katy and I are following a healthy lifestyle.
Appreciating the Now
I try to step back, take in a deep breath, and appreciate what I have every day. I thought I was appreciative before I was diagnosed with cancer, but when you are hit with a cancer diagnosis, “appreciate” means something more than it did before. Much more. Before cancer, I never told my parents or wife that I loved them. Now, I tell them every day. I don’t want to let the moment pass by.
If there’s something Katy and I want to do, we do it. We take spontaneous trips all the time. And if there are things we don’t want to do, we don’t do those.
I’m turning my cancer diagnosis into something positive. I linked up with a friend who has started a brain cancer foundation in Washington, D.C., to raise money and awareness for the cause by competing in the World Marathon Challenge, which includes 7 marathons in 7 days, on all 7 continents. It’s going to be awesome.
I loved doing marathons and triathlons before my diagnosis, and it’s even more rewarding now to be able to direct my energy in this way.
I also want to get my story out, to try to inspire other people the way others have inspired me. There’s so much people can do to live a long and healthy life, by eating right, reducing stress, and distancing yourself from people and circumstances that could drag you down.
It’s kind of a joint pact—you own the parts of your life you can control, and if you can, you let science and biology take care of the other half.