Football season had just finished when D.J,’s headaches began. The high school senior thought it was just a bad cold, but it turned out to be something far more serious—a brain tumor. In less than a week, his whole world changed. “I went from being a regular student excited about winter break to ‘Oh hey, you have cancer,’” he said.
“I Felt Really Lonely”
Surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy quickly followed D.J.’s diagnosis. It was a tough transition for the good-natured athlete, who missed the social interactions that naturally accompany school and team sports. “I felt really lonely at first,” he admitted. That’s when Chemo Pal Josh stepped in to help fill the void. When D.J. is feeling good, the two guys like to hit the gym for D.J.’s physical therapy, catch a Blazers game, or go out to eat. On the not-so-good days, Josh is there too, providing support and friendship.
With his last round of chemo behind him, D.J. is starting to plan for the future. He’s working hard to get his strength back and discovering new ways to be active during his recovery. He’ll be heading to college this fall and plans to eventually get a master’s degree in sports marketing.
Finding Strength Among His Peers
A natural leader, D.J. is also a member of CCA’s Young Adult Alliance, which is comprised of teens and young adults who have finished treatment or are currently in it. Together, they’re brainstorming ways to better serve adolescents and teens who are going through a medical challenge. “It’s been great for us to share our experiences with each other,” he said. “I’ve learned a lot from the kids who are further along on their journey than I am.”
D.J. has plenty to teach those who are just beginning their journey as well. His remarkable outlook is fueled by a simple phrase: Find the gift. “Instead of thinking of everything that was stripped away, I think about all the opportunities my situation presents,” he explained. “I’ve met some incredible people. I have a chance to make a difference. Those things are gifts.”