Dan was an Olympic-quality athlete and active in triathlons, road races and half marathons. His doctor once said to him, “you’re the healthiest guy I know.”
He began feeling stomach pains and nausea while running road races and decided to get examined by his doctor. Dan was told it was nothing, but after hearing lymphoma survivor and former winner of the Survivor TV show, Ethan Zohn speak weeks later, he thought his symptoms were similar.
Dan decided to visit a new doctor and insisted on more testing. He was in a Target parking lot when he got the call; it was lymphoma. When Dan walked in the house to tell his wife the news she was quiet and he thought she looked guilty.
“I thought she ran over my Derek Jeter baseball,” Dan recalled with a laugh. “I looked at her and I said ‘you’re pregnant’ and she said ‘yes’ and we both started crying. We were stunned.” They had been trying to start a family.
Chemotherapy infusions started nine days later. “I was very at peace with the disease,” Dan reflected. “I wasn’t worried about dying; I was worried about not living. I wondered how it was going to cramp my lifestyle.”
Dan completed six rounds of chemotherapy. He and his wife kept a sense of humor throughout their experience, that Dan called ‘Humor with Tumor.’ He was on his sixth round of chemo while she was five months pregnant which led to some interesting coincidences, like sharing a bottle of anti-nausea medication; his from chemo, hers from pregnancy. When Dan finished chemotherapy he had to gain 15 pounds, while his wife gained 15 pounds from the baby. “My wife and I have never laughed so much,” he recalled.
The pregnancy was inspiration for Dan to beat his lymphoma. “I was confident that I was going to live and this miracle baby kept me going,” he said.
Dan used writing on MyLifeLine.org as a therapeutic outlet during his experience. “I wrote for no one but myself,” he reflected. “It was such a key part of my journey and hopefully my success story. It was an afterthought that someone would actually read it.”
He received support from a number of people; coworkers, fellow cancer survivors, and friends and family. Dan was also supported by a mentor through Imerman Angels. Although he had a lot of support throughout his journey, Dan also had to learn not to judge people who said nothing about his diagnosis. “Instead of thinking of the people who didn’t call, think of the people who did,” Dan said.
It was also important to Dan that his supporters stay positive and follow through when they offered help. “So many people use the phrase ‘I’m there for you if you need anything,’ but acting upon that is different. If you offer to do something for someone who has cancer, do it. That really builds a connection,” Dan advised.
Dan is now cancer-free with a healthy baby girl named Miles, named after the miles he and his wife had been through. “I’m going to look at the baby and say, ‘have I got a story for you,” he reflected.
Dan continues to share his inspiring story through speaking engagements and on his website, Humor with Tumor.