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In the summer of 2001, my Mom's health was declining rapidly, after being diagnosed with melanoma in 1996. She was getting noticeably weaker, was less energetic, losing weight and eventually needed the help of my Dad and I to move around. Five days before my 17th birthday, my Mom passed away at the age of 46. I had burning questions as to “Why? What went wrong? What caused such a rapid decline?” Most of the answers were not satisfying and had to do with genetics or bad luck, which were out of our control and made us all feel powerless. My Mom was an amazing woman and the rock of our family. She was a nurse and mother of four kids, and put the needs of her patients and loved ones first.
Sports and football, in particular, were a great outlet for me as I went on my own health journey to gain weight, since I was an undersized, middle linebacker. At a young age, I had a desire to empower myself and use food and weight training to optimize my abilities and gain weight. I went on to play college football at the University at Albany and finished my career as a three-year captain, holding the all-time leading tackle record and becoming a two time All-American. In college, I studied human biology. After college, I spent ten years coaching football at the college and high school levels. From 2015-2019 I organized and led summer football camps for six to thirteen year-olds.
There are several other loved ones in my life who have battled a cancer diagnosis. My Mom’s twin sister had breast cancer. My Mom’s younger sister had ovarian cancer. In 2015, my college roommate and teammate, passed away at the age of thirty with melanoma. He was strong, tough, and resilient. Again, I had such powerful questions looming over me and wanted to know, “Why?” The standard of care system has worked for some, but I know, in my own life, I have witnessed its failures. It was apparent to me that the “one size fits all” approach did not work for many, and we need to dive deeper into every individual's story. My curiosity has led me to think differently about the causes of cancer and treatments, and to seek physicians who look beyond treating just symptoms and are more focused on seeing patterns in an individual's story and environment. By thinking about the whole body and its interconnecting systems, it is the terrain that is at the root of our well being. It needs to be evaluated, addressed, and nourished on an individual basis.
Change is challenging and I recognize growth is not a linear progression. I enjoy being a part of the iterations of someone's development, whether it’s a football player on the field or someone's health journey. Watching someone spiral up to new levels is my motivation and inspiration. I’m thankful for Dr. Nasha Winters and her team for creating this platform and providing hope for so many. It’s a challenge that I’m thankful to be a part of.
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