Due to the nature of his work as a police office on the SWAT team, we will not reveal many details of the identity of one particular cancer survivor who is trekking to Mount Everest this month.
Let’s just say he breaks down doors and busts bad guys. That’s really all you need to know, about his work anyway. As a person there is a story filled with as much heart and soul as any of the others.
Around age 6, he remembers a group of policemen visiting the city hall office where his mom worked. They were there for one reason only. To show his baby sister, who had severe cerebral palsy, a nifty toy police car they could talk through and make light up. The baby girl lit up along with it.
“I realized at that point that there was more cops did than just arrest people,” he said.
After spending a few years riding rodeo around the country, he’s been a member of the police force for over a decade now and currently serves high-risk warrants and handles hostage situations. He was once involved in a shootout that ended with a murderer charging toward him, firing for his face. His partner took the man out. He didn’t sleep for three days.
But he’s quick to remind you that even though he and his team carry enough weaponry on their body to win a small war, his mission is and always has been to do good for the community.
There aren’t many breaks, and the man in his mid 30s sees it as a lifestyle more than a career. As he sits down for lunch, he must switch to the side of the table that allows him to have a view of the door.
“There are a few people who would love to find me,” he explains.
Even though you’d be insane to challenge him to a fight with his broad chest and overall badass exterior, he’s got a gentleness and compassion to him that he prefers to use as a setting when the situation allows. His doctor describes him as a “bear hug wrapped around a heart of gold.”
He and his wife weren’t able to have children. Instead of dwelling on what they couldn’t do, they focused on what they could and have been foster parents for many years, eventually adopting a beautiful little girl without a family. She’s now two and dances to any song she senses.
It’s not the only time they’ve had to react with grace to the cards that have been dealt. He’s been proactive throughout his sister’s illness, and his wife had to accept the death of her brother in a motorcycle accident. Three days after the couple returned from their honeymoon, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. A few years later, he received the news of his Hodgkin’s disease.
Chemo and radiation therapy usually do the trick, but the cancer recurred a year later. He underwent high-dose chemo and a stem cell transplant. Usually patients who undergo this treatment remain at the clinic for 40-60 days. He left after 17, which tied the record. He wanted the record. He was back to work on the police force a few weeks later despite learning from doctors that he might make it to 40. Some said he had a year, but they couldn’t say for sure.
The cancer returned. He tried one more round of radiation less than a year ago, sneaking away from duty to receive the treatments in his uniform. The doctor was optimistic. It did the trick. He has remained cancer-free ever since.
Not much sympathy comes along with his line of work, which he calls his dream job. “You have to understand the mentality of SWAT guys,” he says. “Not much room for excuses. Guys come into work with broken bones.”
He later mentioned that he is currently carrying around a broken bone, but he preferred to keep that on the down low. No excuses.
If it’s not impressive enough that he’s taken on cancer and serves to protect the community with mental and physical toughness, here’s a story that should drop your jaw:
It’s rare that a position opens on the SWAT team. Once upon a time one did, and dozens of guys were gunning for it. During the physical fitness test, one must complete 50 body-weight squats in one minute, 50 pushups in one minute, 50 sit-ups in 90 seconds, five dead-hang pull-ups and a timed mile-run.
He did it all with the exception of two pull-ups and fell short of the run by 15 seconds. He walked away knowing that failure to complete the challenges equals no consideration for the position.
An officer stopped him, confirming that this was in fact the man who just finished his final chemotherapy treatment a couple weeks before, and was currently undergoing radiation treatment for Hodgkin’s disease.
He was considered. He got the job.
He will travel to Mount Everest beginning tomorrow where he looks forward to the beauty he will be a part of. He explains that seeing things out of the ordinary in this world confirms his beliefs. As far as what he experiences in his line of work – people being bad to one another, having to do CPR on a baby who dies – he hasn’t found an explanation for those yet.
But he likes to imagine that when he goes, he’ll float up to the clouds, see everything and everyone he’s ever known, and all of a sudden it will all make sense. “Ohhh,” he’ll think. “I get it now.”
Let’s hope he remains uncertain why things are the way they are for a while. We need the good guys. Especially the ones who take on the bad ones.