To say the last year of my life was crazy would be a complete understatement. To be able to say I’ve been cancer free for over a year and over coming that most challenging times of my life and being able to laugh and sit back and be able to say wow I over came something that unfortunately take too many lives away.It all started back in April of 2016, here is a quick back story of myself. I was 28 year old who was pretty much healthy other then having Crohn’s Disease since 2006 and kept that under control till this point. It felt like I was having stabbing pains in my stomach that I didn’t experience since possibly 2006. We went to the hospital (North Shore L.I.J.) I went thought a number of tests and a few days in the hospital we all thought it was a crohns flare up and we would treat it as so. Unfortunately, I had to make another trip to North Shore because I had this uncontrollable pain still, but this time with a 102.1 fever . All the doctors including my gastro, Doctor Matthew McKinley, who I have had since the start of my battle with Crohn’s Disease and I trust with my life wanted to do an emergency Colonoscopy. After this procedure we had to wait for the results. Then my world would change as we would know it…
I get discharged and I was not feeling any better. I would sweat uncontrollable as if I was playing a full court basketball game and and would get random fevers. After Dr. McKinley got the full report and actually personally called me to set up an appointment, I didnt like that signs (what Doctor sets his or her appointments by themselves unless it was something urgent or serious.) This was one of the first moments in the next six months for me that would feel like time stood still and everyone around me turned into Charlie Browns’s Teacher… He didn’t like what he saw in the colonoscopy and the lymph nodes in my small intestine can be cancerous. All I can recall from that appointment was then fiance now wife Nicole and my mom breaking down crying and them trying to argue that this wasn’t the truth! I was just in utter shock and all I can say is we will figure it out and find away to fight it because that is the only way I’m programmed. Dr. McKinley suggested we should see an oncologist and have a PetSCAN to see if in fact I did have cancer.
Few days later I take the test at Pro Health in Great Success. After waiting several days (which felt like years) the oncologist confirmed I had cancer. However, due to the lack of cells taking from the biopsy from the colonoscopy, the type of cancer was undetermined. We decided to call Memorial Sloan Kettering to get a second opinion. I remember it like it was yesterday we called on a Friday and there was a cancellation for Monday and we went to see a specialist. We brought over the Pet Scan results and disk and the suggested surgeon showed me the film of my Pet Scan. I lit up like a Christmas Tree in Small Intestine and a few spots on my Rib. To actually figure out what type of cancer , I had to do another biopsy from the mass on my rib to see what is going on. I went though another surgery. I found out that that mass was so large it had broken my rib. After all the waiting. MSK was able to get the result very quickly, however they confirmed it was cancer but we they were waiting for specific slides to come back to determine exactly the kind. At this point I was unable able to go to work because I was fighting the daily fevers and uncontrollable sweats. Then the turning point of everything happened. I had another 102 fever we called MSK and they said don’t hesitate and take myself to their ER. Luckily the drive from my parents house in Valley Stream, NY to MSK in the upper east side of Manhattan didn’t really that long . I get seen and taken care of put right away. They start me with iv fluids and all nine yards we still have yet to find out what kind of cancer I have and how I’m going to be treated. Thank God for Nicole and my family for being on top of everything and trying to get answers when I was just fighting to stay alert and better. We finally find out I was diagnosed with a rare form of Lymphoma, to be exact I had Plasmablastic Lymphoma.
After finally getting a diagnosis and being transferred to a room, I meant my brand new oncologist Dr. Ariela Noy. When you first meet her, you think she is had drank ten cups of Starbucks but she reassured all of us who was bedside with me that I will beat this BUT, the next six months will be a challenging time of my life. Here we are trusting someone who we just met and having her tell us I can over come cancer. She wanted me to start intense chemotherapy cycles right away and that would mean I had to stay at MSK for the first week of my cycle just to keep a good eye on me. Boy was I emotional wreck for obvious reasons, I was just a complete mess. I had to be on a tough 24 hour chemo drip for the next four days. Thank God for the nursing staff and the support staff they have at MSK. They are truly special people and they helped me and my family learn the steps that I would need to fight my battle. This week was a crazy week. I had to celebrate Nicole’s birthday there with my mom, my mother-in-law, my aunt and cousin. I felt so terrible that we had to celebrate it in the middle of MSK cafeteria instead of going to one of our favorite steakhouses. Thankfully a few days later my friend Gerard surprised me with one of the coolest things anyone has ever done for me. He was at NY Giants charity softball game with tons of current and former players. He was able to ask former running back and two time super bowl champion, Ahmad Bradshaw to speak with me for a few seconds. I was shaking and about to break down in tears because he took time out to wish me luck and keep fighting. He said that I’m going to have to be “all in”. All I wanted to say to him was thank you for being such a great football player and I enjoyed the way he played and fought for everything he had. It might of been a minute phone call but it meant the world for me.
I’m not going to bore you guys with the rest of other treatments. They were really tough uphill battles between the first through the fourth cycle. I had my good and bad days. I would find ways for me to keep myself sane I would set goals for myself either it would be me being healthy enough for my birthday or being able to attend Mike Piazza Night at Citi field or being able to surprise my future wife at her bridal shower. The amount of love I got from our families at the bridal shower was simply beautiful. My number one goal was to be healthy enough to walk down my aisle on my wedding day and dancing the night away..
But I had to overcome the toughest hurdle that was thrown at my whole time being sick. It was at the start of cycle five and I had very unfortunate news that my uncle Brian Meehan, who was healthy has can be, had a massive heart attack and past away. My whole family was stunned and obviously very upset. I love my family so much and I knew I had to be there with them for at least the wake and show my respects to my uncle who I loved dearly and I would do anything for my Aunt Dominica and cousins James, Alicia and Patrick. I spoke to Nicole and my Mom that I would surprise them at the wake by taking Uber from the Hope Lodge ( Thank you American Cancer Society for letting me stay there during my treatments) in Midtown to Colts Neck, NJ. I will never forget their faces when I opened the door and at their weakest moment having to wake the loss of their father and husband. I knew if I showed up, even if it was for a minute, it was worth it and to show them that I was with them no matter how weak I’m or how I have to get to them I will be there. The looks on their faces meant the world to me and showed everyone this fight I’m going though will not keep me down for long! That whole week was a challenge for obvious reasons and also the fact they upped my chemo by 60% because the light was starting to show at the end of the tunnel.
Unfortunately the only goal I was not able to make was to be at my own bachelor party which my brother Michael and my uncle worked so hard to get a date setup to sit in my uncles boss’s suite for a Mets game. The morning of, I fell ill and had to go to the hospital and wouldn’t be able to leave until the next day. So I had to tell everyone to go enjoy the suite without me because I knew how hard my brother and uncle worked on to get it for me. I’m sure it wasn’t the most fun they had because they all had me on their minds, but I watched the game from my bed. Too bad they lost but I hope they enjoyed themselves a little bit.
Now the time has come, I finished all my treatments and I had to wait a full month to take a new PET Scan, the moment of truth. Did all my hard work and fighting pay off , will I be in remission for my wedding, are we going to have to push back our wedding?? Unfortunately I wasn’t in the clear just yet. Dr. Noy wanted me to get one last colonoscopy because the pet-scan wasn’t clear enough to say if I was fully cancer free. So another a few days go by. A few day before I was getting married, the office tried to call me while I was underground on the subway. Luckily I was able to get service when my mother called me. I was in the middle of Fulton street train station on my way to meet Nicole to go home. My mom calls crying YOU DID IT! YOU DID IT! ITS OVER! I LOVE YOU SO MUCH YOU BEAT CANCER YOU ARE IN REMISSION!!!! I just broke down and cried. As I reflect now, I literally gave my blood sweat and tears into beating cancer and to enjoy my wedding on November 25th, 2016. I was able to see everyone having a great time at my wedding and I was able to be fully apart of it and danced the night away!
At the end of the day, you really don’t know how much strengthen and power and love and support until you are faced with your weakest time of your life. I’m very lucky and thankful for everyone who helped me get back to 100% the last year! I love you and if you read this and is fighting anything and would love to talk to me I would love to help. I’m always a tweet, text, call away! Just don’t forget to stay positive no matter how bleak something may look and always always fight till you cant fight any longer! F CANCER!