This week’s story is about a great man with a wonderful sense of humor. I first met Scotty during the summer of 2013 while working EFY, a summer camp for teens. He always kept me on his toes with his wit, attitude, and the kids he got. He had a way of uplifting those who were sad and allowed people to see the best in themselves. I always thought to myself, this kid will go far in life, he has the right attitude. It wasn’t until late into the summer when I heard Scotty’s story and learned about how was a survivor.
Here is His Unknown Story:
While attending Brigham Young University in the spring of 2008, I applied for and received a mission call from my church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, to serve as a full-time missionary for two years. When I heard word of its arrival I immediately left campus, as well as any regard for my classes that day, with an excitement that is hard to explain. For many years I had looked forward to this day, wondering where in the world I would be for the next two years. Would I have to learn a new language? Will I be in a third world country and wash my clothes by hand? What if I go somewhere and have to eat bizarre food? Thoughts like these competed for my attention as I quickly made my way to the postal office where my letter awaited me. A few hours later, with my brother and his wife by my side, I read my mission call and was overwhelmed with pure joy.
“You are hereby called to labor in the Scotland, Edinburgh mission.”
Scotty going to Scotland seemed like the perfect idea in my mind, and I was thrilled at the prospect of serving in such a beautiful country. My departure date for the United Kingdom was June 5th. On May 30th, with passport and suitcases packed, I was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma cancer. Instead of serving a mission, I was assigned 14 rounds of chemotherapy and radiation over the course of the next year.
The full experience seems surreal to me now six years later, as all those days in hospitals and doctor offices have fused together in my memory. Yet some memories are fresh still, to the point I can recall even the minutest details:
- The day I learned I had cancer. A few weeks prior, I had a small mass removed from my back. With no symptoms of cancer, my family and doctor assumed there was nothing to be concerned about. The mass was sent for analysis and a week later I received a call stating that something wasn’t right with the mass, and that it was being sent to the Mayo Clinic for further inspection. Another week passed by and my family was called again, this time by a doctor in Tacoma, asking us to please come in immediately. My father is a Tacoma police officer and met my mother and me at the hospital in his patrol car. The doctor wasted no time in informing me of my condition. I remember every turn I made while driving home as my mother sat in the passenger seat weeping in near hysteria. I believed something was wrong when I received the first phone call, so I wasn’t completely surprised by the cancer news. When I arrived home my younger sister could tell by the look in my eyes that it was indeed cancer, and as she broke down and embraced me the reality of the situation still hadn’t set in, until I called my brother and said the words, “I’m not going to Scotland.” My tears were immediate.
- My first day of chemotherapy. I had to be transferred from the cancer center I was at in Seattle to the University of Washington hospital to finish my treatment. Chemotherapy was more nauseating than I imagined, and after arriving in the parking garage at the university I found myself head deep in a garbage can thinking to myself, “Wow, day one and I’m already this sick.”
- Losing my hair. Three days after my initial treatment, I was able to gently pull out clumps of my hair. Having fun with my hair, I approached my mother and said, “Want to see something cool?” She didn’t appreciate the gesture, go figure. The next day I shaved my head. My hair never grew back after chemotherapy. I love my bald head, but if I knew that day would be my last day with a full head of hair, I wouldn’t have made so many dumb bald jokes.
- Receiving a blood transfusion. Somewhere towards the end of my treatments, my red blood cell count became dangerously low. Fearing that I may slip into a coma, my doctors ordered me to go receive blood. I was given four pints of blood, with each bag taking two hours. What I thought would be a quick fix turned into an all-day event. I didn’t realize how terrible I felt before until I finished the transfusion. Barely able to walk earlier in the day, as I strolled out of the hospital on my own I looked at my dad and made the comment, “Blood is amazing, absolutely amazing!”
- My first emotional breakdown. Throughout that year I kept a great attitude about my trial and would force myself to smile and laugh, not wanting pity and attention from anyone. On rare occasions I would allow a breakdown and cry myself to sleep. The first time was in the hospital during one of my five-day stays. The weather was grey and it began to rain. As I lied in my bed and stared out the window I thought of the poem “The Rainy Day” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. I let my walls down and wept for an hour.
As strange as it sounds, I am grateful for my time with cancer. I became a better person, and more fully aware of my faults. Humility and optimism were my rewards for enduring, and I have benefited tremendously from them. A year after finishing my treatments, I was deemed healthy enough to serve a mission. Again I received a letter, but this time to somewhere unexpected. I roared a yell of laughter as I read my new assigned mission. Utah, Salt Lake City. The two years there as a missionary were amazing, and I wouldn’t trade that time for anything.
Life is hard, but I’m convinced the only way to live is with a positive mentality and a smile on your face. On days when I wasn’t particularly in the mood to be nice to my nurses or family members, I would tell myself, “Scotty, today you’ve seen small children going through chemotherapy. You’re 19 with a strong body, if those children can still laugh and smile while hooked up to machines, so can you!” I have a great life, and I am thankful for the rainy days that come my way. Because of them, the bright days are that much better.
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