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The Warrior: Garrett Byrd

The Warrior: Garrett Byrd

As told to Britt Julious

This is the second time I’ve [battled] cancer. The first time, it definitely hit me way harder.

I had my first battle in 2016 before I went to college. And I was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma, but they caught it early. I had radiation everyday for three weeks.

I thought I was doing fine. I was coming up on my three-year remission this past fall. I went back, they found another mass that I had to get biopsied and it kind of just spiraled from there. It transformed into a new type of cancer—non-Hodgkin lymphoma—and now [I] have to go through six rounds of chemo, three weeks apart. This is another bump in the road, [but] I don’t want this disease to run my life.

It’s definitely a delicate balancing act. I’ve been trying to live my own life, while at the same time battling this life threatening disease. I’ve [worked] with the university [to get on] academic disability. My professors have been super accommodating. I’m really involved with Camp Kesem. Having that support system not only with my fellow counselors, but also the campers I’m pretty close with, [has] been a big contributor in helping me stay sane and keep everything balanced.

This is another bump in the road, [but] I don’t want this disease to run my life. 

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Hockey has also been such a cornerstone of my life since I was 6 years old, so I really can’t imagine my life without it. I play club hockey. I am actually the president. It’s a student-run organization. Once I was diagnosed, it was really hard for me to accept [that] I’m not going to be feeling my best physically. But at the same time, I want to be the best teammate and player I can be.

There [are] days where I feel like garbage, and there are days where mentally, I’m defeated. The best way I’ve found to push through that adversity is to find something that makes me happy in the moment. Kind of finding that one thing that helps me ground myself mentally and hit the reset button. If I get too caught up in a situation that gets me down, it will ruin the entire day. Once you’re in that bad mental state, it’s hard to get out of it.

I’ve learned that the most important thing is having my support system, whether it’s my friends, my girlfriend, my family or my teammates. They remind me [that] okay, it stinks right now, but it’s going to be okay. It doesn’t have to be okay all of the time. Life goes on and life is going to be better after this.

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