Taking Care of Your Health

Chad's Story: 'There is Life After Cancer'

May 26, 2017

Chad-with-family-640.jpg Chad with his two children, Samuel and Charlee.

Chad racingAs I walked toward the starting line in Hopkinton, Massachusetts, my eyes welled up with tears. I couldn’t believe I was about to run the 2017 Boston Marathon. Dr. Samuel Agresta, one of my first Moffitt oncologists from 12 years ago, was by my side. "Thank you," I said. He was the one who encouraged me to run Boston.

I was first diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma – a rare bone cancer – when I was 23. Right out of college and two months into my first job, I went to a doctor after several weeks of nagging lower back pain. A CT scan revealed a large tumor in my pelvis. I immediately started treatments at Moffitt Cancer Center, which became like my second home as I went through chemotherapy, radiation and surgery. After more than a year, I was cancer-free and ready to move on with my life.

In 2007, I competed in the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii – a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26.2-mile run. I’ll never forgot crossing the finish line after 15 hours of racing, hearing the announcer say, “Congratulations, Chad. You are an Ironman!” I felt more like an Ironman after surviving cancer, but the race was an experience of a lifetime. In the years following, with every clean bill of health, cancer became more of a distant memory. I got married and had two kids, Samuel and Charlee.

In 2015, my cancer unexpectedly came back. I was terrified. All too familiar with what I was facing, I was scared my wife and two young kids might lose me. When I went back to Moffitt, now 33, many things had changed. I was pleasantly surprised to discover the Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) program, which was created to provide more support and resources for young patients.

Chad with Dr. Damon Reed

Whether you’re a teenager or a young adult, being a young person with cancer is incredibly hard. There were times during my first battle when I felt isolated, with very few of my peers understanding what I was going through. AYA set out to change that ­– by connecting young patients at Moffitt, helping them with resources they need, and encouraging them that there is life
after cancer.

For me, having personal goals during treatment – something that didn’t involve cancer – was helpful. Boston was a big one. In the final mile of the race, with thousands of people cheering, I remember saying to myself, “This is your moment.” It seemed surreal. Part of me still couldn’t believe I had run the Boston Marathon. I was so thankful. Thankful for the amazing team of doctors, nurses and staff at Moffitt Cancer Center. Thankful that I can run and that I’m in remission again. Thankful that Sammy and Charlee still have their dad.

Chad is a Moffitt patient and two-time survivor of Ewing’s sarcoma. He lives in Lakeland, Florida, with his wife, Erin, and their two kids.