D.J., Back to Life [Part 2]

[If you missed our first installment of this series, read Part One of D.J.’s Journey.]

D.J. completed treatment last month and is starting to reclaim the life that cancer forced him to put on hold. He spent his spring break in Mexico —not working on his tan but helping build houses for families in need with his church youth group. He’s working hard to get his strength back and discovering new ways to be physically active during his recovery. “Football is probably out, so I’ve been trying new things, like basketball or hiking with friends,” he smiled.

College is back on the horizon as well. D.J. is in the process of selecting a school and will be starting as a freshman next fall. He plans to study business and hopes to eventually get a master’s degree in Sports Marketing.

A Powerful Alliance

Once a strong presence on the football field, D.J. is now putting his leadership skills to good use as a member of CCA’s Young Adult Alliance. This new advisory group is comprised of teens and young adults who have completed or are currently in treatment.

Together, they’re brainstorming ways to better serve adolescents and young adults like themselves who experience serious illness with a set of emotional challenges that are unique to their age group. The Young Adult Alliance allows teens like D.J. to connect with their peers on their own terms and gives them a chance to bond over a shared experience that their “healthy” friends and siblings may not be able to comprehend.

“It’s been so great to talk to other kids who have been through similar things,” he said. “I’ve learned a lot from the ones who are farther down the road to recovery than I am.”

Helping Kids Get Back to Nature

This summer, the Young Adult Alliance will help CCA pilot an immersive outdoor program called NatureRx. Its goal is to empower teens who are in treatment with a sense of resilience and independence, while encouraging their future orientation and optimism thru outdoor activities like hiking, kayaking, surfing, yoga, fishing, and camping.

D.J. says he’s excited about the program and knows first-hand how much good it will do for other young patients like him. “When I was in the hospital all the time, I really missed being outside,” he said. “Fresh air, that smell just after it’s rained, the feel of sunshine on your face—those things really help when you’re feeling stressed.”

D.J. at the Caring Cabin

A Bright Future

These days, the world is full of possibilities for D.J.. Whatever he chooses to do, he’ll approach it with the same focus and resilience that is helping him overcome his medical challenges. And should the going get tough, D.J. will continue to do what he always does: find the gift, even though it sometimes hides in the most unlikely places.

Of his experience with cancer, D.J. says – “I’ve met some incredible people, people I never would have met otherwise. Now I have a chance to make a difference for other kids going through treatment. Those things truly are gifts.”


Help young adults like D.J. find the gift as they go through cancer diagnoses and treatment. Please donate and share today.