1. You have been living with cancer for 10 years, yet you still consider yourself a "survivor." How do you look at survivorship?
When I say I’m a "survivor," people nearly always assumed I’m in remission. However, there is still cancer present in my body and I’m still being actively treated for it, so technically, I’m not in remission. But for me the act of “surviving” isn’t one single accomplishment, like having no cancer or growing your hair back. Surviving, to me, is a way of life. It’s an ongoing battle whether you’re in remission or not. It’s the willingness to battle every day, cancer or not. I was a survivor long before I was diagnosed.
2. In what ways are you trying to raise awareness and funds for your disease?
Being a professional wakeboarder, I have a platform that allows me to reach people around the world. I’ve hosted multiple events for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Be The Match, and LIVESTRONG, raising over $50,000 for the organizations, and I speak at numerous events throughout the year.
3. When did you first come to Moffitt, and why?
I came to Moffitt in 2014 and have been seeing Dr. Javier Pinilla-Ibarz ever since. Given Moffitt’s extensive research programs and their focus on individual care, I feel confident that I am getting the best care possible with the most updated research and information. My doctors are personable, so I feel comfortable speaking and being honest with them. Oh, and the valet parking comes in handy, especially during Florida’s rainy season.
4. What advice would you give to someone else who was just diagnosed with cancer today? Particularly a young adult like yourself?
My advice would be to focus on what is in your control. You already have cancer, now it’s time to focus on your attitude and taking control of your health: eating right, staying fit, mentally and physically. I think the hardest thing for my generation (young adults) is accepting that we are built to take on challenges. As a generation, we’re becoming more and more comfortable with the notion that everything in life should be easy, but as humans, we were built to not only struggle but to persevere. Instead of "Why me?" think "What can I do to put myself in the very best position to succeed?"
5. September is Leukemia & Lymphoma Cancer Awareness Month. What would you like other people to know about this disease?
Unfortunately, there is no known cause for leukemia, so there are no specific prevention measures you can take to prevent getting it. So instead of encouraging prevention, I’d like people to know there are countless ways to help. One of the easiest, yet most impactful, ways to help is to register for the national bone marrow registry! www.bethematch.org
6. How has wakeboarding and staying active helped you in fighting this disease?
Beyond the obvious physical health benefits of being active, what has helped me most is continuing my passions. Fulfillment is powerful, and so, so important to our overall health. Stay active, take care of your body, and continue to do what you love!
7. Who has been your biggest supporter in your ongoing battle against cancer?
Definitely my older sister, Tiff. Because I don’t "broadcast" the issues I deal with, many don’t know of my daily struggles. Over the years, Tiff has supported in every way – taking care of me when I was sick, lending an ear when I’ve had a bad day, and always being willing to volunteer her time and effort to my fundraising efforts, planning, organizing, and executing events and campaigns for various causes.
8. What else should we know about you?
You should probably know that I own over 30 Hawaiian shirts and that I’m publishing a book this fall called, "In My Bones," which is a memoir depicting the very bizarre, exciting, and drama filled six months surrounding my diagnosis.