Founder, Todd, to Graduate with Honors Despite 5 Year Battle with Cancer

One month into my freshman year of college at the University of Florida, I lost my feeling of invincibility. After weeks of looking for an answer to my worsening symptoms like night sweats, extreme itchiness and rapid weight loss, I finally had one – Stage IV Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. My doctor promptly reassured me that this mostly curable cancer was just a ‘bump on the road’ to better and brighter things. Fate had a different path in store for me. Five years later, after 63 nights in the hospital, over 600 hours of chemotherapy, two bone marrow transplants, 18 days of radiation, and enough relapses to stop counting, my journey with cancer goes on. More importantly, my life as a soon-to-be University of Florida graduate with a 4.0 GPA goes on – and that’s definitely something worth fighting for.

The hardest part about living with cancer is trying to plan for your future. With so many unknowns, I’ve learned to live for each day and savor every moment. Despite this, as a young person trying to find my place in the world, it seemed impossible to avoid thinking about my future. I often questioned, ‘why continue to work towards a college degree when I may never see it to completion?’ Yet, I ultimately found that just as I couldn’t give up on my health, I couldn’t give up on my future. That isn’t to say there weren’t obstacles. Many advisors, professors, and people close to me encouraged me to drop courses or give up on entire semesters in order to focus on my health. Nonetheless, I persevered and managed to earn a 4.0 GPA from the College of Business and graduate only a year behind my peers.

The one thing most people forget to mention about being diagnosed with cancer is the positive outcomes. At 23, after 5 years of battling cancer I am thankful and proud to have married my soul mate, started the Live For Today Foundation to help other young adults with cancer and now be able to fulfill my lifelong dream of graduating from college with high honors. None of these accomplishments would have happened without my unique perspective on life in the face of death, the support of my family and friends, and all of the Gator Nation cheering me on.

As I move into the next phase of my life, I look forward to sharing my story and helping other young adults with cancer to find their purpose. I don’t know how many more days I will be given, but I will use every one of them in search of fulfillment. In preparation for graduation this coming weekend, I am inspired by the words of Booker T. Washington, “Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome.”

Todd Blake
Founder & President

Todd Studying For Finals

5 Comments

  1. Gina Metzger On August 11, 2014 at 9:57 am

    Hi Todd, My name is Gina Metzger, and your story hit close to home for me. My husband Chris went through a battle with Hodgkins, starting in August of 2003. I remember the doctors saying, if you have to have cancer, this is the one to have. He had a bad reaction to his first chemo, which caused his whole protocol of treatment to get changed. He did have a bit of remission in April of 2004, but lost his battle in October of 2004. He was 48.
    It is wonderful that you started this foundation for young adults going through cancer. I am amazed at your accomplishments throughout your battle. Everyday researchers out there are making strides in finally finding cures for this.
    My 3 daughters, and I try to do all we could to raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. This year, on October 4th, which is the 10th anniversary of Chris’s passing we are having a benefit softball game to raise money for LLS. Chris was an avid softball player, all the way up to when he got sick. We hope to raise a lot of money, as we will have raffles, and many other things going on. We also have an online auction that anyone can bid on. If you know any die hard Breaking Bad friends, tell them to check it out. My son-in-law was the camera operator on the show, and gave us a script from the pilot episode, with all the cast signatures. It is pretty cool. The website is angelintheoutfield.myevent.com
    Please keep up the great work you are doing. And you will be in my prayers. I truly hope that some day we won’t have to be doing these things, because cancer will be gone.

  2. Melissa Wallace On August 11, 2014 at 10:37 am

    I saw you and your beautiful wife on the Today Show this morning. I am truly inspired by your outlook on life in the face of death. I was brought to tears listening to your testimony, as I have a similar experience. My fiance and I found out he had a rare form of cancer a year into our dating. I knew I would be there for him through everything. Cancer took a toll on our lives as we battled through each day. Many days were so great, we would forget cancer was even part of our lives. As you know, life is a rollercoaster of ups and downs. He battled cancer for 18 months and on December 11, 2011 he went to be with Jesus. He was 32 years old. He was saved a week before his journey ended. It was such an honor to be by his side.

  3. Peggy On August 11, 2014 at 12:58 pm

    Todd,
    I saw you and your lovely wife on TV this morning and you looked just like my son Grady when he was going through his treatments. He was 22, had just graduated from Indiana University and ready to go to Florida State as a graduate assistant when his world stopped. He was diagnosed with Stage IV testicular cancer that had spread to liver, lung, lymph node. After a year of treatment, including a clinical trial and stem cell transplant, I am happy to say he is alive and well. He also married his high school sweetheart and she has been at his side for eleven years now as his wife. He is 35, finished his masters and doctorate, teaches college, continues to have regular checkups and is healthy. I wish the same for you.

  4. Chuck Pietroforte On August 12, 2014 at 9:50 am

    I too was diagnosed with Hodgkins when I was 19, stage 3B. That was 40 years ago.
    Hang in there, there is hope.

  5. Maz On August 14, 2014 at 7:42 am

    My husband was also diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at 18 – stage 4B. Ten relapses later (I am not exaggerating) and one diagnosis of lung cancer (due to all the treatments) he is still around, aged 43 and father to two beautiful cchildren. Just keep swimming!