I grew up in Cardiff, California. I was fortunate enough to take part in Soccer, Baseball and Bodyboarding at amateur and professional levels until my early 20’s. Being in the ocean was particularly special to me as it was my self therapy and a way to always stay in humility being surrounded by mother nature and her power. I’ve always searched for activities that were similar that would not only help me become a stronger person physically, but also mentally and spiritually.
I had always been a huge fan of martial arts and mixed martial arts since the late 90’s and studied it. In early 2009, I started officially training Jiu Jitsu with Saulo and Xande Ribeiro at the University of Jiu Jitsu in San Diego. I was training 4-5 days a week and many times two training sessions per day. After about 6 months of training, I started to notice that I was getting really tired after training and this was not a normal kind of tired. This felt different. I felt lump in my neck that I had but it never bothered me until around this time. I was starting to have this heavy fatigue along with pain shooting from the lump in my neck all the way up to my ear along with my equilibrium starting to go off. I would hold in all of this after training sessions and either walk around the corner or drive nearby so no one would see my get sick. I found myself needing to take naps and sleep a lot and still felt exhausted. I just pushed this off as me just needing to push through the pain and fight through this as I grew up doing a ton of cardio and just told my self to “man up”.
Jiu Jitsu prepared me mentally and spiritually for what I was about to go through next. I was humbled every day and every morning. My professors always taught me the valuable lesson that we all put on our gi’s the same way but what makes us different is our heart. In a fight, you will see your true self, you can’t fake who you are when you are in a bad position. You either will give up or fight through a tough position, this applies to life as well. Every moment is a fight, you choose to fight through it or give up.
During Thanksgiving of 2009, I heard a voice in my head tell me to get myself checked out while I was driving down the beach and to my home. This situation was different and was not to be taken lightly. I researched the best Ear, Nose and Throat doctor in San Diego and met with him in December. I met with my doctor, he felt around my neck and then stuck camera through my nose immediately to have a better look. He was calm but with a sense of urgency. He had me immediately take a CT scan with contrast dye. Several days later my doctors called me and wanted to meet with me. He sat me down and explained to me that I had Stage IV papillary and follicular thyroid cancer. The cancer had spread to my thyroids, lymph nodes, already consumed part of my voice box and was spreading to my chest. He explained that we need to perform surgery within 4-6 weeks and then proceed with radiation.
We made the scheduled surgery after my 17 day surf trip to Oahu in January. Two days after I got back, I had a 9 1/2 hour surgery as they found more cancer than expected. The doctors had to open me up from ear to ear and all the way down past my collar bone. I spent a couple of days in ICU and then got a nice room with a window. I couldn’t eat, sleep or really even walk for a couple of weeks in the hospital. While in the hospital my pancreas stopped working completely which made me a Type 1 diabetic and many of my calcium levels became dangerous. My doctor requested that I be released to go home and heal up as I was getting worse in the hospital and in hopes that sleeping in my own bed would help, and it did. I had my radiation treatment several months later to eliminate any cancer that may be left. Several more months passed and my doctor informed me after taking some more tests that the cancer had come back. We did another round of radiation and that was successful in killing any left over cancer cells. I have been cancer free since then!
Throughout the whole process, I could not have gotten through it without my son, family and friends. I was mentally prepared and felt in my soul that I had won the battle but had to fight through the war. My doctors would always say to me that I never complained when I found out that I had cancer, never complained or got upset with my diabetes. I always felt that although it’s completely fine to show those types of emotions (I did break down privately at moments) but no matter what happens, I can never give up and I have to keep on fighting. No matter how much pain or discomfort, It would all be OK. I had to make it through for my beautiful son and amazing wife. They are both the reason I am alive today, they are the reason I breathe and they give me the power to fight without fear and love without limits.