Ride For Kids

Ride for Kids® Alex's Story

Alex To all of you, I am a friend. To two, I am a son. To one, I am a brother. But to me, myself, I am one thing, a cancer survivor. In the words of the great German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, "that which does not kill you will only make you stronger." That powerful statement has great meaning, especially to a survivor. Cancer was something that seemingly came from nowhere that suddenly eclipsed my teenage life. It pervaded my waking thoughts, destroyed my body, and attempted to erode my spirit. We all have been forced to endure hardships and inevitably will again but we find a way to persevere and to make things bright once more. To me, cancer is the very real manifestation of all that is fearful and evil- survival is triumph.

In adolescence, a carefree time when children should only worry about what movies are coming out and what sport to play, a nightmare struck me in the form of cancer. That looming shadow devoured my physical body and put the good times to a very sudden, yet temporary, halt. I was diagnosed with a golf ball sized cancerous tumor three days before Christmas in the year 2000. (I must have been on the naughty list as I definitely would have traded this stocking stuffer for coal) Two brain surgeries, two days apart was a heinous awakening to the fact that the nightmare was a reality. To be released from the hospital one must be able to move unaided and feed one's self, seemingly simple tasks that become a bit more difficult when having part of my balance centers removed and the effects similar to a stroke on the left side of my body. The old adage about relearning "It's just like riding a bike" doesn't pertain to brain surgery patients. Be it sheer willpower, youthful resilience, or the inability to handle any more daytime television, I relearned how to walk with the help of my fantastically amazing parents. Then came the hard part; two years of chemotherapy and radiation. Since my cancer was near the brain stem, my brain and spinal cord were targeted by the regimens. The effects of the straight hours of radiation and the long days of chemotherapy treatments resulted in a constant feeling of nausea and throwing up what felt like my body weight on a daily basis.

Alex Though my hairlessness and scars did not affect who I was, many were intimidated by such apparent damage. Through positivity and humorous, I defused many awkward situations. I was quite successful at putting people at ease with my obvious disfigurement by the use of insightful quotes such as, "I'm not bald, I'm just hair challenged!" and "With chemo you don't go bald, you go hairless! I guess that makes me an amphibian!" I was also the proud owner of shirts that stated, "Bald is Beautiful," "Kickin' Cancer's ASS!" and "Who needs hair with a body like this?" I also informed a gullible few that the scars were the result of a "drag racing accident", "a shark attack" or a "wicked bar fight in Mexico." These carefree quips alleviated the tension others felt with the fact that I knew how I looked, that I was OK with that, and I was still the same me. Throughout all of this, I learned that humor, good friends and family, and unwavering hope are the things we must cling to in uncertain times.

Alex A quote made popular by the movie Gladiator was, "Death smiles at us all, all a man can do is smile back." Take it from someone who was given a questionable chance for survival; smiling makes a world of difference. I believe fear exists until it is confronted and in facing cancer, the fear and possibility of death are ever-present. One cannot dwell on that but must cherish every second of life for that second maybe your last. Like the famous Frost poem, I was forced to take the road less traveled and that indeed has made all the difference. Through an experience I hope you will never face, I was given a great gift of perspective.

In a time when I had no hair, double vision, poison in my veins, uncountable stitches and staples and barely mobile...I was scared...so scared...barely clutching to life. A wise friend told me, "there is always, always life in the fight," and truer, sweeter words have never been spoken.