“You have a softball sized tumor in your abdomen.” This was the last thing on earth we thought we would hear while we were sitting in a dim ER room on a July night.

“You have a softball sized tumor in your abdomen.” This was the last thing on earth we thought we would hear while we were sitting in a dim ER room on a July night. The morning prior, my husband Kyle had been working hard on a fitness test – he had just landed his dream job as a Trooper for Washington State Patrol. Just a few weeks prior, during his medical clearance for this position, the doctors had commented on his higher than usual blood pressure for a 22 year old male but otherwise he was healthy and good to go. With nothing else out of the ordinary, we thought doing strenuous exercise on a warm July morning may have put him into heatstroke – he had vomiting, extreme sweats, racing heart. In the matter of a day, how do you go from thinking your loved one has heat stroke to learning he has stage 4 cancer?

Within a month or so, a biopsy, genetic testing and many scans later we were given the name of the disease – malignant Pheochromocytoma paraganglioma. We learned Kyle had this disease from a genetic mutation – SDHB. The main tumor sat on his adrenal gland, and had spread to his lungs where there were multiple lesions varying in size. Kyle was diagnosed in 2015, at this time almost every single doctor expressed how rare this cancer/disease is and there were not many known treatments. They offered a prognosis, in which Kyle immediately declined. Although he knew it was rare, he would fight it. Even though he wouldn’t have as many years of life as he should, he would make sure he had as many as he could. Kyle was the strongest person I have ever met, I was so lucky to have fallen in love with my biggest inspiration.

Kyle fought hard and with all of his heart and soul for just about 3 years with this cancer/disease (although the doctors predict he’s had this for much longer than we’d known). In my opinion, he beat it. Up until he passed, I whole heartedly believe he went out fighting. Even with monthly chemo that lasted a week each time, and multiple rounds of radiation, Kyle continued to work full time as a WSP trooper. He also helped instruct a drum line at the high school he graduated from and played in himself, played indoor and outdoor soccer, and was an absolutely huge ray of sunshine in everyone’s lives he touched. Never once did he give in, or think negatively. His goal in life was to be remembered – and he did just that. I have received so many compliments from others how Kyle and his strength, determination, and courage inspired themselves and others. Kyle was supposed to receive the MIBG treatment in Oregon the day after he passed away – he was adamant that he was going to make it to that hospital and get that treatment. I can’t tell you how many times he was the rock for myself and others – telling us “it will be okay” when we should have been the strong ones. I can only hope to ever amount to half the person Kyle was.

In this group, I see, hear and read about all you other pheo para troopers and phriends, and I see Kyle. I see resilience, hope, determination. Continuing to fight and move forward even when things get tough, feel out of reach, and many others don’t understand. I am so thankful for this group of people, and what they stand for and believe in. I am so proud of all of who pheo para troopers and their family/friends/caregivers. As much as I wish Kyle could be here to share his story himself, I take pride in being able to tell it for him and keep his legacy alive and well, as well as having the opportunity to connect with amazing new people who continue to inspire me and spark that fire to keep fighting.

But I will end this with some inspiring words from Kyle:
“Today marks two years since I was diagnosed with stage 4 adrenal cancer. It has been an up and down journey full of triumphs and failures. Today though, I feel stronger than ever. The strength hasn’t been from going to the gym, but rather from picking myself back up every time I got knocked down. Two years of chemotherapy and radiation treatments hasn’t broke my spirit. I’m still pursuing my career and working hard everyday to accomplish it. The secret to surviving is to accept the reality, embrace the pain, and keep moving forward to the next day. Every day is a gift that is not guaranteed. I am a firm believer that your attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference. I want to thank my loved ones who have been by my side through it all. Also all of my WSP family that have supported me as well.