Maybe not a name you’ve heard before, or if it is, I’m probably not referring to the same person. Joel isn’t famous, although perhaps he should be. He’s an ordinary guy, so far as I can tell, facing extraordinary circumstances.
You see, I “know” Joel through Facebook. I’ve never actually met him, I may have commented once or twice on his posts, but we’re connected through a mutual group for Spartan race enthusiasts. He’s ridiculously dedicated to his workouts, is impossibly toned, and so far as I can tell runs as many obstacle course races as he possibly can.
By all appearances, he’s dedicated to his two young kids. I don’t think he lives with them both because he’s posted that mom hasn’t let him see one or both of them – Facebook is such a strange medium: it allows you into people’s lives without really knowing them and without all the details of their lives.
Here’s what I do know: he’s in his late 30’s, with two young kids – everything in the world to live for. And he’s got cancer.
So far as I can tell, it seems aggressive. He undergoes chemotherapy frequently. Almost as frequently as he goes to the gym. He shares inspirational quotes speaking directly to him. He shares his optimism heading into treatment, the less than optimistic news he receives from the doctors, but he always seems to buck up. I’ve seen him post despair, but he finds something to hold onto and crawls back. It must be exhausting, but he continues to find a way.
So many people would back off, crawl into a malaise, give up. Joel just keeps pushing forward. I couldn’t be more impressed at his stamina and his will.
I can’t begin to imagine the struggle and the fight this man is waging. His strength – physical to be sure, but mostly his emotional – is so inspiring. Where some say that their family inspires them, he demonstrates that through his virtual presence.
Now, I realize that on the internet no one knows you’re a dog, but he’s not looking for aggrandizement. He’s just a guy. A guy who’s facing a struggle but making the best of it. He’s living his life where others might quit.
Here’s to Joel and his battle, and more particular, his spirit and courage.
Update: Today Joel shared news that was not good. He has lung cancer, and two years ago he was given 18-24 months. He says himself that he knows he’s on borrowed time, but that he was scared to learn how massive the tumor was and what the likelihood that his cancer has spread. He’s facing further diagnostics this week to determine next steps.
Those next steps have brought with them the knowledge his cancer has spread to his brain and within his lungs.
I learned a little more about the man from that. He has his good days and his bad days, but he shared more today than I’ve seen him share to this point. And it’s through that sharing that I learned just how much more I look up to him, just how inspirational his fight, his attitude is. He’s truly a man among men, and someone I admire tremendously for his courage and will.