November 7, 2018, marked the 10th anniversary of 24 Foundation board member, Chad Frk’s, last day of chemotherapy for testicular cancer.
Months earlier in the fall of 2008, Chad had received a terrifying diagnosis. A collegiate baseball player, he was tuned in to his body. When he began feeling an unusual amount of fatigue that just wouldn’t dissipate, Chad sought a professional opinion. During his traveling baseball days, a teammate had faced a similar diagnosis. “When I met with the oncologist for the first time, he knew, as well as I did, that it wasn’t just my symptoms that caused me to seek answers. And he was right.” When Chad began to inventory his symptoms alongside what his teammate faced, he knew that things weren’t looking good.
At the time, Chad was living in Chicago, and his parents were home in Ohio. Before delivering the news, his doctor insisted that they get his mom on the phone, so he wasn’t hearing the news on his own. “The one thing I knew about chemo, was that I didn’t want my mom to see me going through it. I made her promise me that the best way to love me and help me was not to be at any of my chemo appointments.” Despite her protests and that emotional pain, she agreed.
Following a surgery to remove his testicle, Chad began the chemotherapy sessions. During his treatment, he continued to work. And as he expected, the side effects hit him hard, including a terrible bout that caused him to lose 20 pounds in a single day. But he worked to stay positive. “The chemo unit was a family. We became close, and I always worked to reach beyond myself and knit relationships with the other survivors getting treatment at the same time. We were a community in there.”
Finally, Chad reached the end of his treatment, when a nurse on a different routine was assigned to him. They struck up a conversation, which led to a sushi recommendation, and a small spark. Today, Chad calls that nurse, his wife, Autumn. In addition to husband and cancer survivor, he is also a father. And as of 2018’s 24 Hours of Booty… a cyclist.
“I borrowed a bike to be able to ride in the event. It was my first time on one since I was a kid, but I loved making laps around The Loop, and it won’t be my last.” Chad was connected to 24 Foundation through a Charlotte leadership program. He expected to come through the program with multiple opportunities to plug into some area philanthropies. Instead, he was referred immediately to Spencer Lueders, and soon after, ushered onto the board of directors.
For Chad, the mission of 24 Foundation is deeply personal. There are three phases of cancer survivorship: acute survivorship, which addresses the immediate physical issues of the disease. The second, extended survivorship focuses on the mental and emotional impact of cancer. Finally, permanent survivorship includes long-term care and building a network to help others. Says Chad, “24 Foundation’s mission to provide cancer navigation and survivorship addresses each of the three phases of survivorship. This organization knows that to be a cancer survivor means much more than simply providing physical care (though our beneficiaries do that too). But we inspire and engage communities to help bolster emotional and mental wellness. Our events and fundraising also help those affected by cancer to reach out and give back to their fellow survivors. We provide multiple ways for those affected by cancer to improve their wellbeing… together.”