Cancer Can Take the Tough Ones Too

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My letter to Ty, a young man taken before his time.

"I'm bulletproof, nothing to lose. Fire away, fire away." - Sia (from "Titanium" by David Guetta)

How do you thank someone who is no longer here — someone who saved your life? Ty saved my family and gave me precious time. The time that could be great or brief, but it will be well spent.

I don't have the words to articulate what I want to say about Ty and his story. I don't even know all the details of his whole story. What I do know is that Ty was the son of a man I admired greatly when I was a young teacher and coach. I know Ty made his father proud. I remember hearing stories of him from his father, my boss and the principal of my school, when I was teaching 7th grade. Ty was in 7th grade at another school.

Ty is the reason I made that appointment for a biopsy two days after I ran the Boston Marathon. As fate would have it, I heard the brief details of his story, but I couldn't get it out of my head. As it would turn out, I was diagnosed with the same primary cancer as Ty. I later found out that we shared the same oncologist — a person who is making real progress in the treatment of melanoma.

The one-year anniversary of Ty's death just passed. Cancer sucks and it takes the tough ones too. Sometimes the disease just beats the toughest and most positive people — it does not discriminate.

I want to yell at the top of my lungs. Melanoma has no ribbon or race for a cure like breast cancer does.

We're finally on the brink of making real progress. That's great news, right? But I sit on the sideline with stage 3a disease, waiting and hoping to qualify for a clinical trial.

Melanoma is as sneaky as they come. Melanoma is a shadow — my lifetime shadow — like a stealthy and quick-footed ninja. It comes, disappears and reappears with only one goal: Victory. I will keep yelling and telling my story. I will keep sharing, educating and telling others about the true capabilities of skin cancer.

Ty, I can only hope I am as strong and tough like you so that I can continue to spread the word, and I hope that I can help people the way you helped me.

Tough like Ty,