Sunday, October 1 2017
The more people I meet who have participated in Haymakers For Hope, the more it becomes clear that there is a singular word that encapsulates the mission, the experience, and the reason this approach to fighting cancer resonates with people so deeply.
To fight in Haymakers for Hope is an exercise in personal sacrifice.
A Haymakers fighter sacrifices little things, like chocolate cake and Guinness stouts or multi-hour Netflix binges. He sacrifices sleeping in. She sacrifices late nights out. A Haymakers fighters sacrifices major things. She didn’t get to put her son to sleep. His nose gave up quite a bit of blood. Above all else, a Haymakers fighter sacrifices time. They give up hours that accumulate into full weeks both at the gym and fundraising. Time is amongst the most important thing a person has.
A Haymakers for Hope fighter sacrifices.
Sacrifice is no stranger to Richard Beecher, who will be stepping into the ring in New York City on November 16th, 2017. In some ways, a proclivity towards sacrifice is a personal attribute of Richard’s. His own engagement in personal sacrifice has shaped and characterized so many periods in his life that the very real sacrifices associated with Haymakers aren’t such a big deal for Richard.
Well, most of them anyways.
“The time away from my wife and one-year-old daughter is the hardest,” Richard says, “I’m getting to the gym at 6am, so I’m missing mornings with the baby. That time with her is so awesome and fun. It’s really tough, missing it. The family stuff is by far the biggest sacrifice.”
That’s saying something, coming from a guy who once upon a time gave away one of his own internal organs.
Sacrifice requires a goal. One gives of his or herself in order to achieve an ends to something. A person who sacrifices a dollar to a homeless person does so with the goal of feeding them. Giving up a dollar bill to the wind is not sacrifice. Sacrifice without reason is simply loss.
The reason for Richard’s journey with sacrifice might be identified as a comment that was made to him when he was in high school. Richard, a football and lacrosse player, was given the editorial news that he “had no chance of ever playing a division one sport in college”.
And thus, Richard’s sacrificial sights were set on doing just that. After joining a friend who was visiting Towson University on a baseball scholarship, Richard chose to attend Towson as well, and began calling the school’s lacrosse coach regularly, leaving voicemails, sometimes getting him on the phone and telling him how excited he was to come try to walk on the team.
Richard did just that.
And, in doing so, he was promptly cut from making the team.
“I wasn’t fast enough. I wasn’t ready, not at that level,” Richard remembers, “So I went to the coach again and asked him what it would take for me make the team. How could I stay involved while working toward the goal of making the cut next time? And he told me to be the camera guy who films every practice and game.”
Taking that on would be a major sacrifice of time, especially for someone just arriving to college and all that goes along with that. Not only did Richard take on that role, he fully committed himself to a team that he was not yet a part of. He learned the offensive and defensive as he captured it on film. He worked out with the team. He ran with them. He joined a summer league to get additional practice. He dropped 25 pounds. He committed to being in as good shape as any of them. With nothing promised to him, for a full year he did what he could to figure out how to be a division one athlete.
“The next year’s tryouts involved a scrimmage against Princeton, one of the best collegiate teams in lacrosse,” Richard says, “I played like a madman. I was so excited. After that game, I made the team.”
His hard work and sacrifice’s paid off. He was officially a Division One athlete. He was twenty years old. It was October of 2001.
“My Uncle Donald was really close with my Dad. He was one of those really close family members. His son was my age too,” Richard says. “They gave him three months to live. By December of 2001 we knew his only choice would be to do a living liver donor transplant or die. He was in really bad shape. My dad wanted to donate, but he wasn’t a match. So I did the testing. I was.”
Richard had in many ways sacrificed an entire year working toward a singular goal, a goal that he only just achieved. He had been a division one athlete for less than sixty days.
“I quit the team in January. I stopped drinking and became permanent designated driver for all my friends in college. I withdrew from school and started getting ready for the surgery.”
It is important to understand that at this time, living donor transplants were not commonplace. This was not a run of the mill procedure. This didn’t happen often. In fact, the transplant that would be attempted between Richard and his Uncle would be only the forty-second living donor transplant ever performed.
“When it happened, I didn’t really think twice about it. My uncle needed it. I guess that’s just part of being young and invincible,” Richard laughs. “I was twenty. I was indestructible. Looking back, it must have been really scary for everyone. There was not a lot of precedent for that kind of surgery.”
The weekend before Richard’s surgery, a transplant center attempted a similar procedure between a donor and his brother.
In this case, the donor did not survive.
There was media coverage of the death and reporters spoke to a Doctor Lewis Tepperman. Dr. Tepperman told them that there was a young man named Richard Beecher who they should speak with, as the doctor would be performing the same surgery on him in the very near future.
“So now I’m in New York getting interviewed about someone dying doing the surgery that I’m about to do. Eventually the Early Show gets a hold of the story and Katie Couric comes up to interview me, my Uncle, and Dr. Tepperman. After that show, I get a call from a girl saying she saw my story on the news and didn’t know these types of surgery were possible. She wanted to talk and find out more because she wanted to save her dad’s life. That was pretty powerful.”
“It was fifteen hours of surgery for me and fifteen hours for my uncle. Two teams working separately, with only some overlap. We were under anesthesia for a long time. I had eighty stitches across my stomach. The scar is like a giant peace sign. I woke up feeling pretty terrible.”
As for Uncle Donald?
“The day after surgery my Uncle was up and out getting a hot dog from the hot dog stand,” Richard laughs. “He felt great.”
Having once been given three months of life left, Uncle Donald and his wife moved to Florida and lived out his final days in the warm sunshine. While he lived for only five years beyond the surgery, the family understood that the liver transplant was not something that would save him completely. He had also developed cancer which had begun to spread.
Which brings us to today, where Richard is preparing to knockout cancer as a Haymakers fighter. He doesn’t have to do this. This man has exceeded his quota for sacrifice in a lifetime. But that’s not the type of person Richard is. Goals are not things to be met. They are to be exceeded.
“If you give me a goal, I want to beat it,” Richard says, “I think I can be the first person to personally raise more than $90,000. As soon as I saw that that was the record, that was my benchmark. I work raising capital for private equity funds. I’m not bad at raising money.”
That competitive spirit certainly harkens back to his days vying to transform himself into a successful division one lacrosse player. As he prepares for Haymakers, that experience and the individuals that were so integral to it, remain in the forefront of his mind.
“I have two buddies from the lacrosse days, Brian Myers and Bobby Ogrudek, who both are battling cancer, though both are at different stages in the treatment. Being part of a team is all about family. We have all stayed really close. Bobby is in the midst of dealing with colon cancer. He’s going through everything now. Brian’s was always the joker on the team, always laughing. Big guy, stud athlete. Definitely a leader on the team. He was diagnosed a year ago with prostate cancer. He just went through his final surgery. He’s doing well. He’s psyched I’m doing this.”
“This Haymakers experience is very personal for me. I’m doing this for those guys, as well as all of the close friends I have with family members who are battling cancer. I’m preparing for this fight and I want to win, I want to be victorious, but at the same time all I find myself thinking is ‘how lucky am I?’ Any time I am feeling down or don’t want to train, I just remember that these guys are depending on me. They are my motivation.”
“Everyone out there knows someone that is connected to the battle against cancer. Everyone relates to the struggle that those with cancer endure. What Haymakers does so well is show people that you are choosing to struggle alongside them. You are doing something. It’s a sacrifice of body, mind, and emotion. You aren’t just raising money from behind a desk. You are getting your face punched in.”
A Haymakers for Hope fighter sacrifices.
That’s what makes the journey so powerful.
And so it’s no surprise that Richard Beecher would one day sign up to fight for Haymakers.
Richard’s been a Haymakers fighter all along.
Donate to Rich or purchase tickets to Hope NYC VI here.