I grew up in Leicester Massachusetts playing high school football and welding for my fathers business. I joined the US Army Reserves immediately following 9-11.
Within the year I was deployed to Iraq in 2003 and completed fuel missions all throughout southern, eastern and western parts of Iraq. My second deployment was in 2005-2006 where my unit ran gun truck missions protecting convoys north of Baghdad and Al Anbar Province. After returning home I started the police academy and has been a police officer since 2006 in the city of Worcester, Massachusetts.
In 2013 at the age of 30 I went to the ER for what he thought was a hernia. After several tests I was diagnosed with testicular cancer. I was informed the next step would be surgery. The following week I had out patient surgery and started on the road to recovery.
Several months later I had several lymph nodes that were inflamed and chose to have a lymph node dissection, a very invasive surgery. I had to follow a strict diet along with no heavy lifting and was out of work for over six months.
Once I was able to return to work he took up running to stay in shape. One day while running, I noticed a wheeze and was coughing up blood. After several days of this I went to the ER. Test results revealed six tumors in my chest and lungs as well as pneumonia.
A nurse at the local hospital had referred me to Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston for a second opinion. Once at Dana-Farber I met my oncologist Dr. Chris Sweeney. He explained that I would not be leaving and would be getting chemo once admitted. With Dr Sweeney’s plan in place he looked at me and said “Let the healing begin.” So it did.
The first day in the hospital room Dr Sweeney had a stationary bicycle put in the room so I wouldn’t go crazy sitting around doing nothing all day. I would hop on the bike to keep the blood flowing. I always feel better when I do some sort of workout. I was hooked up to chemo for eight hours a day for five days a week. Once the chemo was done I would go home for two and a half weeks then return for more treatment. This went on for five sessions. I was able to keep active in between sessions. The first few days after chemo were really tough but after that I would get out of the house, go to the movies. By the second week I would go to the gym, do Crossfit, wakeboard, play golf, hockey. As you can tell I don’t like to sit around and do nothing. I bought an entry level road bike because I knew my lungs wouldn’t be the same as before.
After the five sessions of chemo the tumors shrunk however I needed to undergo two lung surgeries to get rid of the residual tumors. The first lung resection took 1/3 of my right lung and they had to break my rib to take it out. It was a tough recovery with the broken rib and big scar on my back. I went back for a two week followup and the tests revealed that the lungs were great but…a tumor had formed in my brain.
The following week I had brain surgery and several sessions of radiation on my brain. Once the brain was good to go it was back to my left lung that needed to be operated on. Ten percent of my left lung was removed, the surgery wasn’t as bad as the first one. Healing took place and I was cancer free!
That was short lived as several months after the second lung surgery testing showed that I had a second brain tumor in another spot. My Dr explained that the testicular cancer was a non-seminoma mixed germ cell tumor. That is what spread from the testis to the lungs and then to the brain. Dr Sweeny planned for me to have another round of chemo, a second brain surgery and several more sessions of radiation.
In a three year time period I had testicular cancer surgery, lymph node dissection surgery, two rounds of chemo, two rounds of radiation, and two brain surgeries.
In the recovery phase of all of this Dr Sweeney had mentioned the Pan-Mass Challenge. The Pan-Mass or PMC is a two day 190 mile bicycle ride from Sturbridge to Provincetown Massachusetts. All money raised goes to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. After hearing that I immediately wanted to get involved. I signed up for the PMC and mentioned it to a few friends. One of them being Eric Shaw, who said he would ride with me. The funny thing is he promised to ride 190 miles on his bicycle. (Eric did’t even own a bicycle.)
My boss Mike Cappabianca was a cyclist prior to riding and he said he would ride a days ride of the two day event. After very little coaxing he was all in for the two day ride. Another co-worker Angela Consiglio said she would ride (on her bike that she didn’t have). I must have been doing something right to have two people want to ride that didn't even own a bike.
Being all law enforcement and former law enforcement I wanted a bad-ass team name so I came up with Thin Blue Ride. We had Thin Blue Ride apparel made and sold over 500 t-shirts within 6 months all though family, friends and word of mouth. We held a 5k run and several other fundraisers. All the money Thin Blue Ride raised was sent directly to Pan-Mass and into Dr Sweeney’s research for testicular cancer.
After completing two consecutive Pan Mass Challenges and raising money for cancer research I wanted to give back those closer to us. My idea was to make Thin Blue Ride a full nonprofit organization - and so I did. The mission being to help those financially who are diagnosed with cancer. Sad to say but cancer does not hold back my organization won’t either. Thin Blue Ride will do what we can through fundraising to help anyone in need that has cancer.
Thin Blue Ride is now an official 501c3 nonprofit organization made up of the people who helped create it. We want to help those who can’t help themselves. I was helped by family and friends and now I want to pay it forward.