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Taking a Run at Cancer

I never met Kyle O’Connell. But he was special. At age 7 he was diagnosed with a malignant tumor in his brain stem. Kyle bravely battled for 2 years. He rarely missed school, and he remained positive and hopeful in spite of the suffering caused by his treatment.
On February 6, 2005, Kyle was freed from his burdens. He was 9 years old.

In a perfect world, no child would have to suffer like Kyle did. No parent or sibling would have to endure what the O’Connell’s did. But the world isn’t perfect.

Cancer impacts us all. Whether a relative or a friend, we all know someone who has suffered from cancer. The experience changes you forever. Some of us are fortunate enough to have had cancer and survived (you can read my story below). When you’re dealing with cancer, you realize just how vitally important it is to have good doctors, researchers, nurses, and counselors who truly care. Cancer treatment professionals are incredibly special people.

The Kyle O’Connell Memorial Scholarship supports and inspires special students dedicated to pursuing careers on the front lines of the cancer fight including nursing, marriage and family therapy and the sciences. We never know who cancer will strike next and when. And so it is critical that we support the next generation of cancer treatment and research professionals so we can continue to gain ground in the fight against this deadly disease.

On August 16, 2009, I will run the America’s Finest City Half Marathon with a goal of raising $20,000 for this scholarship. Please support this special cause. You will impact the life and career of someone special. They, in turn, will go on to impact scores of cancer patients and their loved ones.

Give to the Kyle O'Connell Memorial Scholarship

To read the recent article about Dan written in the USD Magazine click here.

Surviving Cancer

Dan and family

During freshman year at USD, my dad was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. He died during the summer between freshman and sophomore year. His illness and death was a significant financial burden on my family. USD restructured a financial aid package that made it feasible for me to stay in school. That changed my life.

In May 2008, while horsing around, my youngest daughter accidentally kicked me directly in the groin. A few days later, my older daughter got me in the exact same spot. What are the chances? My girls aren’t strong, but apparently they’re accurate. Soreness lingered longer than usual. Then came swelling, and a visit to the doctor. I’ll never forget the empty and terrifying feeling that came with being told “you have testicular cancer”.

Three days later I was in surgery. The procedure is called a radical orchiectomy. Emphasis on the word “radical” - they just take out the whole thing (right one, in case you’re wondering). I declined a prosthetic for lack of a glow in the dark option. Fortunately, with the help of my little angels, we caught the cancer early and it did not appear to have metastasized.

Nonetheless, because of the tumor’s pathology, and to eliminate the possibility of micro-metastasis, I got to experience 3 months of chemotherapy. I did 4 cycles of 21 days each. 5 days in a row on an IV for 6 hours each day.

I’d like to say I was strong through this part of the treatment. However, the effects of chemo broke me physically, mentally and emotionally. As one of the oncology nurses told me, “the chemo wins, every time.” I never could have imagined the anguish of those 3 months - the debilitating effect of the chemicals, the nausea, the insanity of withdrawing from steroids, acute anxiety, and the dreadful feeling that this will never end.

At the same time, I was completely overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support family and friends (including many USD alums). Some very special people simply carried my wife, kids and I through those dark months.

USD Homecoming

I finished chemo one week before the 2008 USD Homecoming weekend. The Sigma Pi reunion was on my calendar as a goal that helped me get through what was a particularly difficult experience. During chemo, several USD alums, many of whom were Sigma Pi's, reached out and were incredibly supportive to me and my family. I threw up for 4 straight days after my last treatment. I was placed on an IV to rehydrate that following Tuesday. However, I made my goal and was playing golf at homecoming just 3 days later. It was rejuvenating to reconnect with so many old friends that I’d lost touch with.

Moving Forward

Running as a fundraiser was an easy fit. I ran intercollegiate cross country at USD and was team captain in 1988. I even had the privilege of being an assistant coach during my 3 years at USD law school.

Recovery at first was slow. I am now 6 months past chemo and am starting to feel more normal. All follow up tests so far have been normal. While I still experience fear of the cancer returning, I’m now at the point of needing to move forward. This fundraising effort is an important part of that healing process.

I’m one of the lucky ones. Others are not so fortunate. Perhaps the lesson is…when life delivers a shot to the groin, it may just be a blessing in disguise.On the front end, I never would have chosen to go through this cancer experience. Now, I wouldn’t change it if I could. I have an additional sense purpose to my life (as well as some creative new nicknames), to grow from this experience and to make a difference for other people.

Your donation supports a USD student, who will in turn support scores of people dealing with cancer, and thus, makes a difference in the fight against cancer.

Give to the Kyle O'Connell Memorial Scholarship

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