By Sara Bondell
Building a $1.5 billion natural gas power plant from the ground up is no small feat, but for Marty Drango it was the career opportunity of a lifetime.
Serving as a station manager at a large utility since 1997, Drango got involved in the company’s plan to build a state-of-the-art combined-cycle natural gas station in Citrus County, Fla., in 2014.
“Even though I had done something like this before, it was very exciting,” said Drango. “The land was nothing but trees and woods and to know at the end we would have a power plant, it was incredible.”
The utility broke ground on the project in March 2016. Five months later, Drango was diagnosed with stage 3 colorectal cancer.
“It was very tough,” said Drango. “It was like in the movies when the room starts closing in. Once I heard the word cancer I didn’t hear much else.”
While some may have stepped back from work during treatment, Drango embraced both head on. He underwent six months of chemotherapy followed by 27 rounds of radiation, driving back and forth between Tampa and his home in Crystal River as much as possible and staying at the Hope Lodge next to Moffitt Cancer Center when he needed extra time to recover. But no matter how far away his treatments were or how he felt, Drango never stopped going to work.
“It just helped keep my mind on something other than the cancer itself,” said Drango. “When I was at work, I had to be focused, even if I was carrying a chemo pump on my hip. I just wanted to keep things as normal as possible and I wasn’t going to let cancer win.”
Drango also kept up with his exercise routine, lacing up his running shoes less than two days after completing most rounds of chemotherapy.
When the utility flipped the switch on the new station at the end of 2018, Drango had more than one reason to celebrate. He was cancer-free.
“Opening the new station was a lifelong dream and such a significant accomplishment,” said Drango. “And I had clean scans! It was a great feeling of this culmination of almost five years of work and surviving cancer in the meantime.”
While Drango won’t officially be deemed “cured” until five years post-treatment, it’s full steam ahead for the father of four, his wife Chris and his station, which celebrated its grand opening in April 2019 and is now serving 4.5 million Floridians.
“My advice for others in my position would be to pray, have faith, never give up and rely on the support of your family, company and Moffitt,” said Drango. “After I was diagnosed, I didn’t want to wait around and see what would happen, instead I decided to take control of my own life and control my own destiny. I was truly impressed by the compassion of all those who worked at Moffitt.”