Why They Fight: Rumble in the Rockies II
Tuesday, June 4 2019
With 32 different men and women stepping into the ring for the first time on June 6th, 2019 you can imagine there must be a lot of nerves and emotions swirling around. Excitement, fear, anticipation, hope, dread, the list goes on. They all have someone they are fighting for, they all have individual things driving them. Their lives have all been touched by cancer in some way. As fight night is approaching get an inside look as to what motivates these brave men and women who are stepping in the ring to literally knock out cancer.
I’m fighting in memory of my grandparents, in memory of Deacon Gray, and most of all in memory of Katie Jerome. Katie was my best friend, my first love, and my world. She fought cancer for nearly half her life before succumbing to soft-tissue sarcoma at just 21. Her strength and her character have long been my inspiration. Her memory above all else is driving me to put it all on the line in the ring in Haymakers for Hope’s Rumble in the Rockies.
I lost my mom and both grandfathers to cancer. I hated seeing them struggle as they got weaker, but felt inspired by their determination to continue to live out their lives as normal possible and never let cancer dictate their lives. They will definitely be on my mind when I am training.
Cancer sucks, man. So many of my friends and immediate family members have been affected by it and it hurts me that there's nothing I can really do except support them. It has put some of my friends lives completely on hold and has challenged them in ways they didn't imagine. I wanted to give back in the slightest way by letting them know they aren't alone in this fight and will hopefully get their minds off of treatments and doctor appointments by watching my progress in boxing over the next couple months.
I'm boxing for three people. My stepfather Bruce who lost his fight with cancer (first melanoma then brain tumors). My girlfriend Mirka who was diagnosed and beat breast cancer last year, ironically finding her cancer on the same day I will be boxing (June 6th). And Shane Matthes, one of my Broker Associates in my office who was recently diagnosed with brain cancer. Shane doesn't get to choose to fight cancer - so I will fight with him.
My entire life I have been inspired by those who have fought. Not just in the boxing ring, but for their lives. I've watched family beat breast cancer, leukemia, or my brother who was paralyzed from the neck down fight. They all fought for their lives and fought with passion. Not all of them are here today. I've always kept my body moving and tried to lead others to do the same in the name of those who can't wiggle their toes, feet, hands and head. I want to conquer this journey with passion and discipline. My family is proud and excited which makes me fight and train harder. This is an amazing cause and I can't wait!
My friends - so much suffering and loss in my friends lives because of cancer. It just sucks. I'm pooling together a list of loved ones from my friends and family. That's who I'm fighting for.
I have seen so many people suffer through this horrifying disease, and many haven't made it. People I love have been broken because of it. Cancer doesn't have a preference - it comes for the young and the innocent, even those who haven't learned to walk yet. Simply put, it's not fair. I am fighting for the people who didn't have a chance to fight themselves.
I have been fortunate to find family all over the world. I have had family suffer from lack of funding for their disease or a broken medical model that treats symptoms and not the actual disease. These days are done for me and frankly, I will do whatever the hell I have to find funding and educate the general public on what is happening all over the world.
My inspiration are the children of the Shining Stars. I have been fortunate enough to work with the Shining Stars regularly on the mountain and the optimism I see in those kids is truly something to aspire to. Instead of using their circumstances as an excuse to be bitter, these kids are living each day to the fullest and are so grateful for what they have. If we were all able to do a little bit more of that I think the world would be a better place. They are my inspiration.
I'm fighting to raise funds to support the ChadTough Fund at C.S. Mott Children's Hospital in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The ChadTough Fund was established after Chad Carr lost his battle to Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG) at age 5 in 2015. DIPG is a rare, inoperable form of pediatric brain cancer that currently has a 0% survival rate. I was a student at the University of Michigan when Chad was first diagnosed with DIPG in 2014. Our community rallied around him and his cause. Everyone on campus (and at our rival universities) was #ChadTough. I was in the Michigan Marching Band at the time, and we wore orange ribbons on our uniforms and joined forces with the Spartan Marching Band to spell ChadTough on the field in support of Chad. When he lost his fight to DIPG in 2015, we were all so devastated. The Ann Arbor community was heartbroken. This special little boy had touched the lives of so many people, and we were certain that he'd prevail in his battle against DIPG. When I was accepted to fight with Haymakers for Hope, I knew that I wanted my fundraising efforts to go towards the ChadTough Fund at Mott. I want to help make sure that no more families get the devastating news that they don't have any hope. I want to help knock out DIPG for good, once and for all.
It's funny looking back - when I signed up, I really hadn't thought about what was motivating me to try an step in the ring. Once I got my selection e-mail, I started thinking hard about the disease and how it affects so many people. My mom lost her mother when she was 25 to ovarian cancer and a good family friend was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Luekemia when he was 26 (which he faught and subsequently beat).
I fight because I don't believe cancer must dictate life or death. Instead, I believe we, together, can change what some people call impossible: finding a cure. My goal in life is to push the human race forward. I began my mission serving 6 years in Special Operations with the Navy before jumping into the technology and startup worlds at Airbnb and now CEO of Wishlist Rewards in Denver. I am a lifelong learner and adventurer who has no respect for the status quo. Every punch I throw is a moving meditation for those on my team who have been, or known someone, affected by cancer.
When I discovered this organization, I decided to make the last year of my 30’s about something bigger than myself. I applied to be a fighter and was surprisingly accepted. Little did I know that the 16 weeks of training would shape up to be the most grueling and intense workouts of my life. The organization I have selected to fight and raise money for is called First Descents. Their mission is to provide life-changing outdoor adventures for young adults impacted by cancer. My goal for this event is to raise $5,000 in order to send several young-adults impacted by cancer on a trip of their lifetime. This organization facilitate adventure trips across the country in order to create a sense of community among a population that suffers from higher rates of anxiety, depression, and isolation after a cancer diagnosis. As I work in the mental health field for a firm that delivers adventure and wilderness therapy, First Descents aligns perfectly with my own values and profession.
We are constantly surrounded by friends, colleagues, and family who have been affected by cancer in some form. For me, the most painful is witnessing or hearing about pediatric cancer and the child's inability to live a normal life. For that reason, I am designating my training and fundraising to all those affected by pediatric cancer. As I embark on this journey, please consider donating or even attending the event.
We all know someone who has been effected by cancer; be it a family member, friend, colleague, or loved one. And I am no different. I am fighting for my uncle Steve Wiest (deceased), my grandpa Edward McKinney (deceased), my grandpa Cliff Rosser (deceased), Marty Buckley (deceased), my college classmate Carson Bird (deceased), my high school classmate JW Knapen (deceased), my aunt Jean McKinney (survivor), my family friend Beverly Bowman (survivor) and the list of friends and family members who have battled cancer goes on.
I'm fighting to #kocancer as I've seen first hand what these disease does. Losing a special man in my life (we'll call him JD, as he'd never agree to publicize his fight with cancer) to pancreatic cancer in 2017 was one of the saddest, most frustrating and disheartening things I've ever been through. Being a self made man that was raised to believe I could do ANYTHING I set my mind to, it was early impossible for me to grasp the fact there was little to nothing I could do to save JD or even increase his quality of life in those final months. Even worse was the timing. From diagnosis to his passing was roughly six months. As sad as it was, I was happy he didn't have to extend the torture that he experienced in those six months. For a strong man that had beaten addiction (drugs at a young age and alcohol throughout his life), divorce, a failed business and the natural health consequences that come with addiction, to receive a terminal diagnosis shortly after making these immense life changes was just unfair. Beyond my experience with JD, I also have two amazing children, Rowan is a 7 year old ninja and Alanna, a 2.5 year old princes. Having to explain to them what cancer was, and how/why their papa was so thin and frail, or how and why he's no longer with us was heart wrenching. To hear that 4 in 10 people (or 38%) will be diagnosed with some form of cancer in their life , if something isn't done those numbers will only grow. To think about that in perspective of your family, it's the single most identifiable risk of loss known to man.
I'll be fighting in memory of those lost as well as those still fighting this universal enemy. Cancer tried twice to take my own mother while I was still a boy. I'll bring all of my contempt and rage for the disease into the ring come June; and just like mom, will fight with everything I have.
It's an honor to stand up and fight for this great cause alongside a number of soon-to-be great fighters. Like many others cancer has affected a number of my family and friends. It's something that I am happy to be a part of and able to give my time to help end this disease.
This year (and every year), I'm fighting for my family and family friends who have either passed away from this terrible disease, are cancer survivors and those who are currently undergoing treatment. While they are fighting, I'm fighting. I'm fighting for my 2-time breast cancer survivor grandmother (she's 97 years young!). I'm fighting for my Aunt Debbie, currently undergoing treatment for colon cancer. I'm fighting for our family friend, Darren who just beat cancer last year. I'm fighting for my grandad who unexpectedly passed away from a rare strain of leukemia. I'm fighting for one of my best friend's moms, Marilyn Fishman who passed away from small cell, non-smoking lung cancer. I'm fighting for my cousin, Claudia who is also a breast cancer survivor. Lastly, I'd like to name a few others that passed who were a huge part of my boyfriend, Josh's life: Ray Kudysch, Sheldon Kule and Thomas Bidell ("Bissle"). It's people like these who make us stronger and help us fight for a cure.
I am fighting in the upcoming Haymakers for Hope charity boxing event to show support for all of those who have lost loved ones to Cancer and to raise funds for cancer research, care and to promote awareness and survivor-ship. Fighting the battle against Cancer requires bravery and strength. I hope that I can embody the strength and bravery of those who have fought, those who are currently fighting and those who have supported their loved ones fighting Cancer. My boyfriend Tom and his family recently lost their Uncle, Richard Reittinger, to Glioblastoma (GBM). GBM is the most aggressive form of Cancer that starts in the brain. I have watched Tom and his family support Richard in his fight against GBM until the very end. Richard never gave up hope, never gave up the fight and had a smile on his face until the day he died. Tom and his family stood by his side caring for his daughter and supporting him in every way they could. After Richard past, the sadness rippled through their family and friends but Richard's memory lives on, we talk about him at every gathering. We tell his stories, laugh at his jokes and try to live our lives the way he lived his, enjoying every moment and filling it with laughter with the ones we love. There are too many people in our lives that have to suffer through terrible loss of parents, grand parents, siblings, spouses, family, friends and for some, their own children. I am fighting to raise funds and promote awareness so that one day we can find a cure for Cancer and end the suffering experienced by all.