Relapse – A Brother in Battle

So if you haven’t heard the news, my buddy Ethan Zohn’s cancer is back.  I found out earlier this week just before the news broke to the rest of the world. It’s maddening… and frustrating. I have faith that Ethan will once again kick the crud out of his Hodgkins Lymphoma. And I keep finding myself telling the cancer that it has picked the wrong person to screw with. But there is something about that statement that almost says there are “right” people to screw with, so I quickly retract. But the bottom line is, he will kick its azz but not before he faces some tough treatment and another stem cell transplant. It will be another rough holiday season for him.

The irony in all of it is he has been training for this weekend’s NYC marathon where I will be joining him and racing for his charity; Grassroot Soccer. Ethan will also be guiding a blind athlete that we have running with our team. Check that. Not just any “blind athlete”, but world class and world champion  triathlete Aaron Scheidies. 

All systems were GO. So of course in true warrior fashion, he will still race. Perhaps not as well as he had hoped, but he’ll get it done. Someone commented that this news is “sad”. I don’t feel “sad” right now. I feel really pissed off and offended if that makes sense. But not “sad”.

In talking to Ethan yesterday, I offered the following:

Call me crazy but I feel A LOT of really positive energy around the race and your situation. Think about the dynamic…. Leading a blind athlete…. Going though treatment …. Running with another survivor … (yours truly)….. raising money for GRS and saving lives…. leading by example ….There is just so much karma and POWER in all of this….

The Hodgkins Lymphoma is just showing its ignorance by rearing its ugly head. It’s going to get chewed up.

I’ll post some updates once we get to NY on Friday. I will see Ethan and our crew for dinner Saturday night and we will all ride a team bus to the start and have our own little colony to hang out and enjoy each other’s company prior to the start.

My goal is to just hang out with Ethan during the race and make it a MISSION against cancer.

More to come.

Below is an email from Ethan that went out to our marathon team just today:

To All My Favorite GRS Marathoners,

The past 2 years as a cancer survivor have been super exciting – a trip to South Africa for the World Cup, a journey around the world on The Amazing Race, a new TV series with Jenna called Everyday Health, and running of the NYC Marathon for Grassroot Soccer. In fact, working with GRS has always been the MOST rewarding part my life.

Having said that, I have some not-so-exciting news. On September 14th, after a routine visit to the oncologist, they found evidence of canzer. I relapsed. My f’ing canzer is back.

I have Hodgkins Lymphoma that is localized to the chest and lung area. The docs are very hopeful and are treating this with curable intent.

I’m on a super new drug called SGN-35 which was passed by the FDA on September 24,2011. SGN-35 is considered a “Smart Therapy” because it will only target the cancerous cells in my body.  Therefore, the side effects are not as bad.  Most importantly, I will not lose my jew-fro again, and that’s really my biggest concern…not this stupid cancer stuff. HA!! My first treatment was on October 18th and I’m feeling ok.

Here’s the yucky part. Once my cancer is in remission, I will have to endure another stem cell transplant. Hola Mr. Bubble Boy!!!!  This time it will be an Allogenic Stem Cell Transplant (versus and Autologus stem cell), which means I will use another human’s stems cells and I WILL lose my hair. I will be in the “bubble” for about 40-50 days with a hard-core intensive 120-day recovery period once I’m released.

So that’s the deal….

I think the general perception of cancer is that there are winners and losers. You either beat cancer and win, or lose to cancer and die. There is no in between. The reality of my situation is that I did everything in my power to beat cancer and I did. But it came back. And that’s ok too. I’m not a failure. There are millions of people out there living with cancer and living with the reality that this horrible disease may come back.

This morning, People Magazine made this announcement, but I wanted to send a personal note to everyone. I’m going public because I hope the details of my life have the power to educate and heal others. Or perhaps enable them to connect with me in a way that helps make their journey more manageable. I’m right there with them…living and fighting each day of my life bringing awareness to this global pandemic. It’s who I am, It’s what I represent. I stand up for what I believe in.

I’m still running the NYC marathon for GRS even though I have cancer and have had my first chemo treatment.  It’s that important to me. The docs think I’m crazy, but I want to send a message of hope and let people know that cancer will not slow me down. And it doesn’t have to slow anyone else down either. I will to charge forward and continue to do the things I love, like work with GRS.

I know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of a horrible diagnosis and I want to do everything in my power to make sure no one else will have to go through the same crap that I’m going through…whatever that may be, cancer or HIV.

I can’t wait to see everyone this weekend and have some fun. It’s an honor to be part of something so much bigger than myself.

Who’s ready to outrun cancer and stomp out AIDS?  That’s what I thought…me too!

See you at the finish line,



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