On the Subject of Getting Cancer Twice.

I apologize in advance.  This won’t be like my usual posts.  The only thing about it that will come off as arrogant is the fact that I am 28 years old and already a two-time cancer survivor.  Before I get started, let me put it plainly.  I am nothing special.  I got off easy.  Both times.

The first time I was diagnosed with melanoma (the deadliest form of skin cancer) came after a routine dermatology appointment my junior year at USC.  I had a mole taken off and had totally forgotten about the results so it came as quite a shock on my balcony at the Medici when I got the call.  There’s no real way to explain the feeling when someone tells you that you have cancer and if you don’t act immediately, deliberately and courageously, you will die.  At 20, I almost thought someone was playing a trick on me.  The night before I had recklessly traversed the campus grid with the complete assurance that as a 20 year old I was impervious to bullets, muggers, reality and consequences.

24 hours later, I am researching the sentinel node biopsy, a wide local excision and the survival percentages for people with my classification of malignant melanoma five years out.  Luckily, my percentages were over 95%.  Unfortunately, cancer is the scariest shit on the planet.  It’s like a coked up bear with sharks for hands.  Jokes aside, it’s serious.  Serious as cancer.

Just before USC lost the triple overtime thriller to Cal in 2003, I had surgery where I had a large chunk of my back removed along with lymph nodes under both armpits.  I was shot up with radioactive dye and circled by enormous scanners crawling like locusts on the ceilings of a sterile room.  I was wheeled through oncology units among those suffering from leukemia, breast and brain cancer.  I know the feeling to have people see you in a pathetic robe in pathetic socks and a pathetic hair net being wheeled around a hospital with strangers wondering what you have and marveling at how young you are to have it.  Only you don’t feel young anymore at all.  All you feel is that if someone asks you if you spent a lot of time in the sun one more time you are going to gnaw their fingers off and steal their Buick.  Melanoma for me was a genetic fuck up of epic proportions, unpreventable and impossible to rationalize.  My body just attacked itself.  As arrogant as that sounds, it pretty much just sucks.

The psychology of cancer with a high survival rate is challenging.  It is not challenging like terminal cancer, hell no.  You always feel blessed that you have a clear path to succeed.  The challenge is that percentages start to haunt you.  Anytime you see something that is 95% unlikely to happen, you get a wave of nausea that abuses the memories of even your worst hangovers.  A car accident on the freeway.  Kirk Gibson’s home run against the A’s.  Any Disney movie about any athletic team.  When someone wins the lottery.  Anytime you see something with a 5% or worse chance happen in the world, you relate it to your disease and freak out a little bit.  That’s because you are playing with a loaded gun.  The safety is off.  If that 5% chance happens in your case, you get chemo.  Your odds drop to 60%.  Then to god knows what.  It is a slippery slope and a mental maze.  I don’t wish it on anyone, not even the people I respect the least in the world.

I beat it the first time around and spent years confused and wondering what happened.  It left strange canyons in my mind.  I don’t know how to explain it.  It was life-threatening, but it was caught early, so it was defeatable.  I wondered what if I had lived in the 1800s.  I’d have died at 23 and rather painfully.  I thought I lived on borrowed time.  There were always questions that lead to doors with more questions behind them. What if I had skipped my dermo appointment, which, let’s be honest, until you have a scare with it you consider the least scary of all appointments.  I could go to a spontaneous combustion specialist and be less nervous than I am when I go to the dermatologist.

I moved beyond it though and thought all was cool.  I became a digital producer.  I worked at some amazing agencies.  I met a hot and smart and amazing girl in San Diego.  I relived college with her friends.   I started the most arrogant blog in the universe and got my dream job as a digital strategist.  I heard my band on KROQ.  I retired from my band and we all stayed friends.  So many great things happened in the 7 years following cancer culminating with me marrying my wife on October 30, 2010.

Three weeks later I got cancer again.  I joked to my new wife that when the judge said “in sickness or in health” that I bet she didn’t think that meant immediately.

Suddenly, I was back in a place I really, really thought I buried in the backyard along with all those dead bears.  I had to go to work and tell dozens of people I had to be gone for a while and watch their reactions.  Some were compassionate, some were probing for information to assess whether or not they had cancer themselves, some just asked my odds and assumed I’d make it.  It can be a lonely place.

Cancer is just one of those things that we’ve been conditioned in society to fear.  While it takes the lives of something like one American a minute, many also go on to defeat it and live their lives as they planned.  It’s a head game because when you find out someone has died of cancer, your reaction is never “weird”.  Cancer exists just to kill and quite often it does.

The difference was that now I was a bearfighter.  Now, I knew what I had to do.  The very next morning I was scheduling my surgery and getting my family and friends on board.  I knew that while there was a chance this could go sour, there was a way better chance that with some fearless guerilla tactics I could be back to fullspeed in three to four weeks with no cancer and nothing but awful BCS matchups to watch.

I am the bearfighter and I vowed that this time, I’d put cancer down like the asshole it is.

The maze is tricky.  Cancer kind of acts like the ring in Lord of the Rings, or the necklace thing in the most recent Harry Potter film (which I saw in IMAX the day after finding out that I had cancer again and it was such an out of body experience that for ten minutes, I gave a shit about Hogwarts, fucking magic, fucking Dumbledore and even convinced myself that the chick that plays Hermione reads this blog religiously).  Cancer throws everyone into a headfuck.  Your friends don’t always know how to be and neither do you.  Sometimes the answer is to get worried.  Sometimes the answer is just to say fuck it and laugh.  Sometimes the answer is do nothing at all.  You have to forgive the world around you for their reactions and remember that this is YOUR fight.  No one will ever care as much as you, which is not to say that the people who love you won’t care more than anything else.  It’s just that you are on the table.  You face the odds.  Last time that was a lonely feeling.  This time, it motivated me.  The idea of being a two-time cancer survivor was a good goal.  That’s some real deal shit right there.

Besides an 8 hour delay before the surgery which was mostly just a headgame, the surgery went well.  I’ll never forget a man in the pre-op room near me.  If we have a beer, I’ll re-enact the scene.  Somewhere my mother is reading this and laughing.  My wife is rolling her eyes.  The guy started to crack after surgery was delayed.  I sat there calm as a buddha.  He griped, he complained and basically lost it, berating nurses and night workers.  I just waited.  The nurse told us that 75% of patients react as he did.  I fell into the better quarter, a result of having been through this before and keeping perspective.  How could I be mad that the surgery before me delayed us?  That guy’s life is just as important to his family as mine is to mine.  How could I berate a nurse who takes care of people fighting cancer all day?  Just seemed messed up.  I wouldn’t even treat a Bruin that way.

The result was 35 stitches in my back and another maybe ten under my armpit where I am again, three lymph nodes lighter.  In case some of you are confused, melanoma is different than other forms of skin cancer.  Here’s a little background just to put it in perspective:

  • Basal cell carcinoma develops from abnormal growth of the cells in the lowest layer of the epidermis and is the most common type of skin cancer.
  • Squamous cell carcinoma involves changes in the squamous cells, found in the middle layer of the epidermis.
  • Melanoma occurs in the melanocytes (cells that produce pigment) and is less common than squamous or basal cell carcinoma, but more dangerous. It is the leading cause of death from skin disease.

So naturally, getting melanoma gives you the exciting news that you have the least common and most dangerous form of skin cancer.  That said, mine was caught very early.  Due to my regular check ups, the mole removed was less than four months old.  While that is scary, I now trust that this is preventable cancer.

The one week wait to find results was the worst part of the experience.  Hard to make the time pass.  I was so glad to watch USC beat UCLA and I took a ton of solace in writing these posts.  I love Arrogant Nation and seeing thousands of people read the posts made me happy and excited to get healthy.  Just so you all know, I read every email, comment and message I get.  I do my best to add you as friends on Facebook.  This blog is not my career.  Arrogantly, I like writing because I am hell with a pen, not because I want to get paid for it.  I love to write, I love to talk with you all.  I always say if you are reading this, we’re friends whether we know it yet or not.  I want you to know how much I appreciate it.  You really helped, even the person who stumbled onto this page and read it for five minutes before vowing to never read it again and vomiting profusely.

All my pathology came back negative, which arrogantly, is a positive thing.  I am good to go.  I am clear.  I’m moving a little slow, but that will go away soon enough and I will be out running, training, working and fighting bears again soon.  I am more likely than the rest of you to get this again, but I’ll do my best to catch it early again and I will fight it again.  Hopefully I don’t have to.

I am planning on doing some advocacy and awareness posts over the next year (and they will be arrogant) and find fun ways to motivate you all to take care of yourselves.  You gotta live your life, which for me means scotch, bear blood and the occasional Cuban cigar, but you also gotta pay attention to your body and your genetics.  Just like a bear, the way to defeat cancer is to catch it early and basically go apeshit on it.

I apologize for the the arrogantly-un-arrogant post today, but I had been meaning to fill you all in.  Some of you out there are fighting cancer or something else, I am sure.  Some of you have family battling it.  I am here for you.  If you ever need advice, email me.  Hell, do whatever you need, just know you aren’t close to alone and you can feel whatever you want.   No two experiences are the same, but no two experiences can’t be related to.

Anyway.  I feel really good.  I feel great, even.  All the people who prayed for me, thank you.  To my family and friends, thank you.

Now, I am going back to arrogant posts immediately, so if you liked this thing better, probably best you join a book club.  I love killing bears and I am just getting started with Arrogant Nation.  I am still going to fight for 2011 Heisman Winner Matt Barkley.  Hell, like I tweeted and posted the other night, I want to go to a college party again.  It’s been a couple years and I better do it now while I’m still in my 20s.  Hell, I’ll promote it, let’s give money to cancer research.  My point is, I am back.  Let’s do this.  And by this I mean me getting a sideline pass and intimidating the shit out of the other team.  Next year, our enemies will be forced to read this blog.  We’ll all have a lot of arrogant fun and go to jail.  It will be amazing.  Space jail.  OK.  Let’s end this…

If you take one thing away from reading this post, I want it to be this:  A day where you aren’t fighting a larger battle is a good day.  That perspective is a game changer.  I’ll still hate traffic and losing to Notre Dame, but it isn’t cancer.  Take it from me.  I’ve beat it twice.

109 Comments

Filed under Rants and Musings

109 Responses to On the Subject of Getting Cancer Twice.

  1. Heather

    Fight the fuck on, dude.

  2. Lost: Grandmother, Uncle, friend’s wife, friend’s father. Won: my mom, Lost Angeles. Glad you’re on the winning side. #fuckcancer

  3. Emily

    Amazing. You’re such an inspiration.

  4. Very glad that the outcome is positive (or negative, which is positive… you know what I mean).

    My point is, you’d better be around for awhile because I want to keep reading great writing like this.

  5. Jessie

    Fight On Zack! I can’t tell you how much your blog means to us Trojans! After every loss, I can’t deal and usually my friends feel worse for me than for the loss. But now that I have your Arrogant Recap to look forward to, I’m instantly better and ready to face our next opponent. Stay Arrogant, but more important, stay alive :)

  6. Rich

    Man, I was wondering what what going on. Glad to hear it all turned out. Fight On takes on a whole new meaning.

  7. I like this post better than the rest, but I don’t want to join a book club.

    I’m glad you’re fighting and winning.

  8. Fighting cancer bear-style and winning – TWICE – is hugely impressive. Thanks for sharing…and reminding me to go make some doctor’s appts I’ve been un-arrogantly avoiding.

    I can’t really speak for all of Arrogant Nation, but I’m just gonna go ahead and do it anyway. We’re glad you’re back and you’re going to be ok.

  9. Tony

    My mom was declared cancer free earlier this year and I’ve had a preventative surgery myself. Attitude is everything. Keep fighting man. You’ve got a lot to live for.

  10. Steve

    You are a true champion.

    Now, we all Fight On for both you and the Arrogant Nation.

  11. John

    Zack – I moved to west Africa earlier this year and, needless to say, I didn’t get to watch a second of Trojan football this season, which was rough. However, I still was able to enjoy every game through your hilarious blog posts. Thank you – You’re keeping Trojans arrogant all across the world and I’m really glad you’re alright. Stay arrogant!

  12. Ray Smith

    Hey Zack I saw a link for your blog on my friend Jerry’s facebook and clicked on it. I read your post and you hit the nail on the head bro! I know bro is douche like but I’m taking it back from douche bags. I was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease when I was 13 and went into complete kidney failure when I was 14. I spent 2 years on dialysis and let me tell you something you haven’t lived until you spend your 16th birthday puking in a bucket while machine sucks the blood out your body. I got a kidney transplant when I was 16 and it worked until it didn’t. I got my second transplant in January after another 6 years on dialysis and it seems to be going great. Your post took me back to those days of lying half naked on a table while strangers look at you discussing how their gonna cut you open or having everybody look at you like our already dead and saying “So how you feeling?” 21 surgeries, 262 stitches and 24 staples later I’m still here and reading your blog post made like somebody gets it. I hope you’re doing well and thanks again for the awesome post. And sorry for the super long comment

    • Zack

      ray, thank you for sharing. while i can’t imagine the magnitude of your struggle and i admire you for your attitude and success, we are brothers in struggle. if they could bottle that stuff that makes you stand in there when it just keeps getting worse, we’d be millionaires. then again, everyone would be a bearhunter then. and we cant have that. cheers, health and thanks.

  13. Diana

    Fight On, Zack!! I’m very lucky to be working as a fundraiser at a cancer center. Seeing stories like yours is why I GLADLY go to work every day.

  14. Jan

    I’m wondering what you know about prevention and early intervention. I have about every risk factor for skin cancer and I try to do my best to check myself and get any abnormalities checked out, wear sunscreen etc. but I’ve heard mixed things about whether or not health plans will pay for a regular “mole/skin” check. Thoughts?

    • Zack

      all health plans differ, i believe many cover once a year skin checks. of course, i am not a doctor or a health care provider. annual check ups are plenty unless a dermatologist tells you otherwise. I now go every 3 months and dont care what it costs. call your dermatologist and voice your concerns. they are here to help and its good you are vigilant.

  15. RJBobby

    Zack-

    Arrogance is thinking “it won’t ever happen to me.” That’s been my attitude for years. Which has meant putting off a trip to the dermatologist to check out a few questionable growths. After reading your post, you now have me thinking that it can, indeed, happen to someone my age. I will be on the phone to my dermo. in the next five minutes.

    Thanks for the weekly laughs (from a Duck fan, nonetheless). But more importantly, thanks for the wake-up call.

    • Zack

      my pleasure and good luck in the championship. my advice, which you clearly already took, is just go after it. i am sure you are fine, but if you need to do something, you will and you will have given yourself a head start by acting. this made my day. keep me posted.

  16. Fuck you, cancer and fight on!

  17. “I am the bearfighter and I vowed that this time, I’d put cancer down like the asshole it is.”

    I’m actually going to get that quote to my friend who just came home from nuclear war of a chemo session. The only one reason why I couldn’t hate the bRuins 150% last weekend because they actually were saving my friend’s life. You’re an inspiration and thanks for sharing the story!

    • Zack

      my surgeon is now a clinical professor at UCLA. when the other team is cancer, the rest of us play for the same team. wish her my best and remind her to fight on.

  18. Sean Simerly

    Awesome post. Have enjoyed Lost Angeles for the entire season, and I will continue to spread the arrogant message.

    Glad to have you around for more posts to come. And that last paragraph? As real as they fucking come. Fight on

  19. Brian Nolan

    So glad to hear you’re doing well, Zack! I’m a die hard Trojan and USC alum, and I love reading your blog. It made what could have been a boring, pointless football season fun and entertaining by being “as arrogant as possible all the time.” It also prevented me from jumping off the top of the Coli multiple times. Thanks!! I had an old alum give me a button from the 80′s at the UCLA game that said “USC …but of course.” So god damn arrogant! I love it! Anyway, I hope you heal quickly and get back to bear fighting! Let’s grab a scotch sometime!

    FIGHT ON & WIN FOREVER!!

  20. Mike Oxbig

    It’s a good thing for all of us that the Lymph nodes clearly have nothing to do with the body’s production of arrogance.

    While you were there I hope you took the time to get a cute nurse to check your prostate… just because.

    Fight On!

  21. RT

    You certainly are “hell with a pen” and very inspirational to boot. I hope all remains well with you.

  22. Amy

    Thank you for sharing your ordeal and congratulations on beating cancer twice!

    Also, I can’t thank you enough for this blog. I’ve truly enjoyed reading every post about USC and arrogant nation…especially the posts about the Oregon teams since I’m a life long Trojan fan currently living in Eugene. You are too funny!

    Fight On!!

  23. Traveler99

    Zack, thank you for sharing this story with us, your Arrogant Nation. While your innate arrogance and wit seem to flow easily every week, I know that sharing such a deeply personal experience took a lot of courage. Faithful, scholarly, skillful, courageous and ambitious? All you, my friend.

    My Mom died of lung cancer two years ago, my Dad and a good friend have battled melanoma, and my 30-year old, pseudo-little brother triumphed over testicular cancer this past spring…to name just a few. It’s a shitty fucking disease and as someone else mentioned above, your quote – “I am the bearfighter and I vowed that this time, I’d put cancer down like the asshole it is” – is simply perfect. You are an inspiration to not only those directly affected by the disease, but to all of us. If you need any help whatsoever with your upcoming advocacy and awareness plans, please don’t hesitate to let me know.

    Thank you again for sharing this story, for keeping us entertained and arrogant, and for simply bringing us all together. I am sure Lane Fucking Kiffin couldn’t be more proud. Fight On.

    • Zack

      thank you. my condolences for your mother. that loss is one of my great fears, but here you are standing strong enjoying life as she’d want you to. i will absolutely hit you up when we get this thing going. it’ll be an honor.

  24. Kelly

    You have a really good perspective. I actually went through the same thing, I was moving cross country with my boyfriend (now fiance). About 2 years after graduating from SC I decided to go to grad school in the south, felt they needed some Trojan pride and a cali girl. As we were driving cross country I got a call from my derm about a mole I had forgotten about. The dr asked if I was driving, I arrogantly laughed and said no, go ahead (I of course was) and she said “its melanoma, you have to come back right away and have surgery”. One surgery on my back and 2 lost lymphnodes later I’m healthy. I had lots of the similar experiences (never feel good when they’re injecting u w something that says hazard on it) and the hardest part was when I went for my pre- surgery chest xray and the tech said “oh you’re a John wayne cancer patient”. I remember thinking what the hell is this deutsche talking about, I’m 24.
    Anyway I have an amazing derm in Santa Monica if you need any references (she’s also successfully caught melanoma on my dad 3 times). By the way, my oncologist at John Wayne told me that once you have melanoma you’re chances of getting it again are raised forever (frustrating news but good to know).
    Anyway glad to hear everything came back normal and at least enjoy the vicodin ride!

    • Zack

      you and i share the same story just about. not only that, we both are john wayne alumni. john wayne of course, was a trojan. my derm is like family to me and has saved my life twice (she is arrogantly very good looking too), but i always want to know great derms so i can recommend them. thanks for hitting me up and congrats on an upcoming marriage. you will do great.

  25. josh

    I’ve been lucky so far, having a dad and three friends beat cancer. Tough scene…I can’t imagine going through it. Glad to hear things are OK though. I would hate for this blog to go dark, ever. I’m not even a USC fan (Zona grad) but I stop by everyday to catch up with the Nation.

    • Zack

      my readers won’t love it, but you know Zona is close to my heart. my brother-in-law goes there, my father in law teaches there and i spend the holidays in tucson with my wife’s family. thanks for reading and the kind words and congrats on your success with cancer so far. you’ve helped them all thru no doubt.

  26. Goeff

    I can’t say anything that hasn’t already been said in these comments: gratitude for the blog, compliments on the writing, inspiration and relation (my mom is a breast cancer survivor, caught early).

    You’ve got the right mentality and it shows. Not by the words of determination, but by sense of humor that can get you through anything: cancer or Trojan losses. Chalk me up as another Trojan and fan. We’ve got your back (or what’s left of it) ;)

    Fight On!

    • Zack

      haha, you got me with that last line. im thinking it works like a face lift and now my shoulders are just going to look dope when i go running. of course below that its like a bear got in a sucker punch. whatever. im too arrogant to care. fight on brotha

  27. Fight on Zack! We love you!
    and just so you know, USC students fight on against cancer REALLY hard. Every year I participate in USC ‘s Relay For Life event to benefit the American Cancer Society and it is amazing. I started the Trojan Marching Band’s Relay team, Team Conquest, and we raised more than $11,000 each of the past two years. We also made some sweet BEAT CANCER buttons that I am definitely going to hook you up with. Every year we win tons of awards for being the most arrogant team out there (here’s the Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=202145212222&v=info) . The entire band loves you so I know this year they will fight on extra hard knowing that you’re a survivor!

  28. Sky

    Zack. That was amazing. I’ve been saying all semester how much your blog means to me, means to the Trojan family. We were down. But we were not out. We fought on, arrogantly. And you were our leader. You came right when we needed you, and you gave us something to take pride in again, beyond just being a Trojan. I’m proud to know and support you and everything you do. You will continue to fight the fuck on and inspire Trojans around the world. Thanks for fighting from above, fighting on, and fighting bears.

  29. Briana

    Zach, wow. Glad you kicked the cancer’s ass. I’ve been an avid reader of your blog all season, and I have looked forward to your humor two (or three when we’re lucky) times a week. Thank you for sharing your journey with us–you have the Trojans behind you, and there’s no better army than that. Fight on and stay arrogant!

  30. Your arrogance in the face of cancer is an inspiration to us all.

  31. Fight On, personified! Great read, thanks for sharing.

  32. Mike Giannone

    Damn, I always just thought of you as that new bastard that sat over by those other people I work with. Turns out you’re sort of an amazing bastard.

    Cancer keeps creeping more and more into my life. It’s everywhere now. It scares the hell out of me. I am sharing your story with a friend who is facing a similar fight. You found the words to express what I think she hasn’t come to realize. It’s impressive how easily (or seemingly easy) the perfect words flow from your arrogant mouth.

    I hate the circumstances that resulted in me getting to know more about you, but very glad with the end result.

    And in an effort to show support for your beloved Trojans, please insert some flowery statement here to demonstrate my commitment to USC football in a manner that in convincing and not at all contrived….Fight Forward.

  33. Stephanie

    Wow. Just wow.

    Here’s an idea: Join forces with Jake Olson whenever you plan to start raising all that money for cancer research. Also, promote his new USC shirt now on sale at the USC Bookstore. Proceeds go to his foundation (outofsightfaith.com) which help other kids with blindness. You both are total studs for not letting cancer be a death sentence and I think you could do alot together even if its just as simple as cross promotion. Here’s the link to his shirt: http://www.uscbookstore.com/shop_product_detail.asp?catalog_group_id=LTQ&catalog_group_name=U2VhcmNoIFJlc3VsdHM&catalog_id=0&catalog_name=U2VhcmNoIFJlc3VsdHM&pf_id=8G6JBMP6LCGWEC500439&product_name=VVNDIENhcmRpbmFsIEpha2UgVGVl&type=1&search_text=jake&f

  34. Daniel

    Hey Zack. I love the blog. It has been the best part of the football season, and an enjoyable distraction during classes. I always look forward to the next game recap or preview. Reading it has been dangerous though, since I’ve come close to laughing out loud in class a few times, and I don’t think law professors take too kindly towards that sort of distraction. It has also been a nice source of info for the games as the Boston TV networks arrogantly don’t televise many of them (or if they do, they are on at 1:00 am). I just wanted to say that this post inspired me to visit the dermatologist over break. My sister and I have both had moles removed (thankfully no cancer), and I have been putting off going for the last few years because every time one of us goes the docs order a mole removed (no fun). Thanks for getting me motivated. You’re the man Zack. I’m glad we have people like you repping the Sons of Troy.

  35. Gina

    Zack Attack…. My nick name for you ( which u have been in my phone as since I met you) now has even so much more meaning!!!!
    Zack ATTACK!!!
    Roar!!!!!

  36. Leslie

    Fight on Zack!! So happy to hear you’re ok despite the scare – you had us worried! You’re so right about paying attention to taking care of yourself. My momma fought (and beat) breast cancer a few years back now but it was scary to go through it. And she went through the gamut of having to go through radiation AND chemo. But she survived and kicked cancer’s ass, much like many a beautiful Trojan victory. Thank you for such an inspirational post, even if it was out of the norm. I’m so happy I stumbled upon your blog this season and I shared it with my momma – she religiously read your posts every week! And a convo with her every was sure to include her fav quotes from your posts :) Thanks for all that you do and here’s to your fast recovery! Keep it arrogant, my friend. I’d like to see and sport a Barkley for Heisman 2011 shirt next season, I’m just sayin’ :) FTFO!

  37. Bill

    Was directed here by a friend who thought we took the same approach to cancer fighting. I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease a few years ago at 22, but Chemo and I butt fucked that like the bitch it is and life moved on. My motto the whole time was FUCK CANCER and it’s makes me very happy that there are others out there with the same mindset.

  38. Jeremy Hannah

    Zack,

    Amy pulled up your blog to show it to me this evening. I don’t think that I have ever read a more moving, interesting, and in parts, humorous blog. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences with us. While I have only met you a few times, I am very proud to know you, and honoured to have attended your wedding. I will continue to follow your blog, and hope that we will get to see more of you and Emily for many years to come. Fight the fight my friend, and continue to kick cancer’s arse. Fight on and keep up the most excellent arrogance!

  39. woolseal

    Zach, I’ve followed every single post this season. I enjoy how you arrogantly defeat bears and cancer. Your Arrogant Nation stands behind you! Fight On!

  40. Lauren

    “Hell with a pen” is right. You’re terrific at what you do Zack, be it blogging, bear hunting, scotch swilling or kicking cancer’s ass. Twice. Several USC alumni and I look forward to your posts each week and are never disappointed by what we read. Keep writing, keep fighting, and know that you have the most arrogant fan base in the universe. But then, you already knew that. Which is so arrogant.

  41. Jesal

    I hate cancer as much as I hate the NCAA!!! BringReggiesRecordsBack.com

  42. Zach, I can’t really add anything to what everyone has already expressed; I fought (arrogantly, it wasn’t really a “fight”) and won at 35 and now I’m 50. Fight on; it’s what we do.

  43. One of the most inspiring things I’ve read in a very long time….Fight On! Zack & keep the Faith

  44. MoshDawg

    True Trojan. FIGHT ON!

  45. JR

    I cried, I laughed, you wield a pen like Braveheart. And we should all strive to live our lives with such fortitudinae, and dance while we still can!

  46. Pat

    Zack, I don’t know you. I don’t particularly like USC, and I think humility is always a better path than arrogance. Still, I do read you, and as you wrote: “if you are reading this, we’re friends whether we know it yet or not.”

    I respect you, and perhaps even feel some love and admiration for how you write and what you’ve overcome (if it’s OK to say such non-arrogant things). Fight on.

    Your friend, Pat

  47. Tom

    Bro, I am so happy you shared your story with everyone. Maybe for one glorious night, Lane Fucking Kiffin can wear a Zach the Arrogant visor (in white, of course). Your story and your personal approach to the disease is both inspirational and arrogant. Fight On!

  48. susie

    thanks for sharing Zack! I know it’s very personal and you didn’t have to, but your story is inspirational to anyone who has or has ever suffered from cancer! Stay strong and get well!

  49. Cristen R

    You are so great. You make me feel so much better after every Trojan loss (seems like an oxymoron, right?) and even better when we win! Thanks for the time and effort you put in. And right on for being sooo arrogant and beating cancer twice! Woo! Ps, you should totally come to SC for a college party. Oh yeah.

  50. Csetset

    After reading this post and some of these other comments, I would say I’m fairly lucky because I haven’t suffered through such an ordeal nor anyone close to me. However, your guys’ stories still resonated with me in several ways. While I haven’t suffered from a physical ailment, there have been other obstacles in my life, and like you Zack, one of my comforts from such things has been Arrogant Nation and college football. Our Trojans never fail to disappoint me, nor seeing our alumni and fans come together. It’s something really special and powerful.

    I feel like I’m not living up to our arrogance because my comment doesn’t stand out and make everyone’s hearts melt, but I just want to say thank you for keeping all of us a little stronger these past few months, whatever our troubles may be…from the NCAA sanctions and football, to life’s problems, to cancer and everything in between.

    All cancer patients are Trojans, even when they’re not, because they’re fighting one of the toughest battles to the end. The true definition of fighting on, no matter how hard things get. All I can say is to all of you guys, Trojans or Ducks or even Bruins, fight on. Someday, cancer will be an outdated worry like the Bubonic plague. I don’t hope this, I KNOW this, as in each one of you is a story that brings us a little closer to understanding what happens and how it can be prevented.

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  52. Ausdawg85

    Thank you.

    I’ve always heard that soldiers/warriors don’t want to be congratulated…it’s the wrong sentiment for what they’ve accomplished, but they do appreciate being thanked for fighting for a just cause. So thank you.

    Thank you for your great writing and inspired take on college football writing…arrogant indeed!

    The Senator turned my onto your blog and writing and I’ve really enjoyed your posts this season. As a BullDawg, forgive me for not being, shall we say, “supportive” of the Trojan way, or Lane F*ing Kiffen, but your attitude and perspective have opened my eyes to how everyone should fight.

    The next time you post: “It’s like a coked up bear with sharks for hands.” lets hope you are referring to someone’s defensive line.

    Fight on, Trojan!

  53. Kevin

    Hey Zack,

    Inspiring read, thanks for posting. I fell into the basal categoy, 3 excises now by my late 30s. A much easier experience and I won’t even pretend to make comparisons…Your post here and commitment for future updates/references/reminders is a terrific idea. I have been seeing my dermo doc for years, compliments of fair skin and family history (youngsters should take heed of your experience and not view this as a “middle age thing”). But here’s the thing: each area that was identified, biopsied, and resulting in a positive were those that I found, not my dermatologist. We know our bodies better than anyone and as a result we must point to everything for scrutiny during screening…crossing fingers in hopes something is not detected is neither proactive nor smart. Perhaps a good lesson for future blog inclusion?

    Keep Fighting on Zack

  54. JP

    Solid. I think this billboard says it all about you and The Family we all love:

    http://content.hcpro.com/jpg/content/244500.jpg

    Thanks for letting us in.

    - Fellow Man of Troy

  55. TroJen

    Zack, thanks so much for sharing your story along with a steady stream of Trojan arrogance and humor all season long. My mom had a strange growth that her primary care doctor refused to give her a referral to a dermotologist to get checked out. She paid to go herself and it turned out to be melanoma. Fortunately it never returned, but it was a scary time.

    So glad to hear you’re ok now, and you’ve got so much to celebrate with a new wife, 13-0 in arrogance, and no pesky New Year’s bowl plans. And just FYI, battle scars on guys are hot! (Not like anyone will see them under that bearskin jacket anyway.) Keep Fighting the Fuck On!

  56. katie

    hey zak,

    im 29, an a fellow USC alum who found your blog and loves it. i appreciate your transparancy, humor and perspective on all situations. i was born with a bone disease and consequently use a wheelchair; and while its not cancer, it still changes the way i see things and the way people interact with me. i can definitely relate to feeling alone at times…i know people care, but its not directly them who is dealing with it. i think thats one of the things i love about being a USC alum and football fan so much…i feel part of a family. when there is blown coverage in the secondary, we all feel the pain. its awesome to hear your positive attitude and am glad things are going well. bears (bruins) of all kinds totally suck. best wishes to you and your family. you will be in my prayers.

    fight on my usc brother!
    katie

  57. robyn

    Our whole family loves your blog and we are all praying for you:) Fight on!

  58. DawgBiscuit

    Very inspiring story. I’m glad you did, in fact, put cancer down like the asshole it is. Twice. My 23 year-old girlfriend (who is an RN) found out in July after a routine OBGYN checkup that she had cervical cancer, and waiting for appointments and results was terrifying. Nine days after that diagnosis, her 49 year-old mother unexpectedly passed away of a heart attack, so she then had to deal with that tragic loss in addition to having cancer. Her oncologist in Savannah, GA referred her to a surgeon at the University of North Carolina, who performed a radical trachelectomy in September, and she is now fully recovered and cancer free. She also said yes to my proposal 2 weeks ago, and will become my wife this June.

    We had a happy ending, and I am glad that you did too. So just know that you’re not alone, and that a couple of Georgia Dawgs on the opposite coast from you are rooting for you, and know a little bit of what you’ve been through.

    Fight On arrogantly.

    • Zack

      What a perfect outcome for you. Enjoy your wedding, it will be an amazing time. Even better, you two already know you have what it takes to support each other when it gets rough. Go dawgs.

  59. Hey Zach! You’re like an arrogant onion… Thank for your inspiring story. Fight on!

  60. Good article but bad news getting cancer

  61. Zack,
    I was so happy to stumle upon this post while looking at my search results for “cancer twice.” yep, I’m a two-timer as well. I had breast cancer in ’05 and now have bone cancer. Good prognosis for each, but chemo x2 suuuucks. As the saying goes, ‘Welcome to the club that nobody wants to be a member of.” I just wanted to say thank you for writing so much of what i feel. I journal on Caring Bridge and have expressed alot of what you have said as well. My favorite quote from this post is: “Last time that was a lonely feeling. This time, it motivated me. The idea of being a two-time cancer survivor was a good goal. That’s some real deal shit right there.” As much as we do indeed go through this alone in many ways, it’s nice to see someone else out there who has the attitude I do – “Up yours, cancer!” Here’s to hoping that two is the magic number for both os us and this shit stops right here.
    ~Jennifer

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  63. Emily

    You are amazing. So positive and a fighter. I love it! Just had my 2nd melanoma removed. I am so scared of the future possibilities of this happening again. You inspired me to look at it in another light. Thanks.

  64. DaveAaronson

    How wonderful your prose is and as a survivor( in remission) of laryngeal cancer I really understand the underlying fear that can hang over one. Even though I should be feeling on top of the world and embracing life which I do. I took much comfort in your words so eloquently put you obviously have much strength but I suppose true strength comes from knowing our own weakness which it seems to me you do. Yes cancer is the scourge of the modern age hopefully science will beat it but also our mental attitude towards it. Thanks again for your inspiring story it too am a musician
    Take care through your life.
    Dave

  65. August

    Thank you for this blog! I was diagnosed with melanoma a little over a year ago at the age of 27 and had a very similar experience. I too was very lucky and caught it early. And I also now have a very large scar on my back and scars under each armpit. Thank you for sharing your inspiring story!

  66. Christina

    I’m sitting here waiting for my biopsy results and feeling a little bit beat up. I stumbled on your post and I must say it made feel a bit better. I hope you are doing well since this post. I was diagnosed with Melanoma December 17th, 2012. I went to the dermatologist for the first time because of an odd looking freckle on my left elbow. The Dr. told me it looked like Melanoma and took it off, sure enough, it was. I had surgery the 27th and they removed a 2inch by 1inch section of my arm, all the way to the muscle. I went back for my follow up two weeks ago and they found two more likely spots, one on my right elbow and the other on my right thigh. Thank you for posting this, it made me feel a little less alone as I wait to hear back and fear that I have to put up my gloves for round two! I am very blessed to have my husband who has been my rock through all of this, without him, I’m not sure I would have made it sane. It gives me hope to hear that you have beat this twice. Best of luck to you,
    Christina

  67. Katie f

    I am 23 years old and I was just diagnosed with melanoma on my back. Like you mine was caught early. I really enjoyed your post and I’m glad to know I’m not the only one with those thoughts! This post lifted my spirits and made me laugh. Thank you!!

    Katie

  68. Hilary

    I don’t know how I stumbled upon this particular blog. I mean, I read your bach caps religiously and it makes my Tuesday work mornings that much better. But yesterday I was clicking through your past blogs and this one caught my eye. My good friend’s fiance was just diagnosed with lymphoma. Suddenly that is all we can think about. He started a pretty aggressive chemo treatment of 6 sessions yesterday and will continue them up until a month before their wedding. It has really put things in perspective. Your post made me smile and gave me hope and strength for Frank to fight this thing. Thank you!!

  69. Lindsey

    I am 25 and was diagnosed with stage III malignant melanoma. I was happy to read this and know there was someone close to my age with nearly the same thing. It’s a crazy thing, skin cancer. I was 18 weeks pregnant, and they decided to operate anyway. It’s quite scary as they are sitting there telling you not only do you have cancer, but there’s a chance you may lose your child during surgery. The oncologist said he believes the cancer is gone, but since mine was malignant I am terrified that it will eventually spread somewhere else. I’m pleased you’re cancer free, and thank you for writing a very relatable blog.

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  71. Hi Zack,
    I have just been diagnosed with cancer for the second time and I just googled.. “Can you survive cancer twice?” and found your blog.

    you put into words so eloquently the survivors guilt I feel for having beat it the first time.. the REALLY fucked up head games one goes through, the feeling of being in a cancer ward with a lot of other really sick people.. relating to them if only just a little.. and then now the prospect of facing it again.. the feelings I have a hard time articulating in the face of everyone telling me to “be strong, stay positive, you are an inspiration” whatever I know they mean well.. but I’m scared. Am I allowed to say that out loud and have people just be with me and that feeling? I don’t know because I cannot say it out loud.
    so thank you for give me a space to say it… and know that you understand.

    • admin

      it is absolutely okay to say. one thing i think about is that if people didn’t stay positive, i might have gotten annoyed by people being negative. key is you ask for what you want and THAT is okay no matter what. It’s your fight and they want to help!

  72. Hmm it appears like your blog ate my first comment
    (it was super long) so I guess I’ll just sum it up what I submitted and say, I’m
    thoroughly enjoying your blog. I too am an aspiring blog blogger but I’m still new to the whole thing. Do you have any tips and hints for newbie blog writers? I’d genuinely appreciate it.

  73. My Fiance told me he had melanoma when he was younger and now found a very close to melanoma spot between his shoulders (the number 1 spot where melanoma lies in men) I havent been sleeping good I cry constantly Ive been praying like crazy, I’d like to ask …would it be worse if his tests are positive? ive heard that if you get it again its what they didnt get last time and then I wonder if that means it could have spread e.t.c ….PLEASE my fiance is EVERYTHING to me, i have no friends my world revolves around him and if I lose him I will most likely just take my life. Ive done research and Im not finding any answers I need some kind of comfort ….any other melanoma survivors please help !!!!

    • or please you can add me on facebook Chelsea Bruno, or you can find me under Rob Grier and type my name in (im not sure if you can find me under the search bar)

      • admin

        Chelsea, go to a dermatologist and tell them what you are worried about. I hope my story helped you, but it sounds like a medical professional is who you need to speak to in order to alleviate your fears. Every case is different and only a doctor can tell you, not a blogger or the internet. I wish you the best and please see a medical professional to help.

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