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My View: Resiliency, sense of fun benefit cancer survivors

By Ross Suozzi

How your past affects the character of who you are today. I grew up in North Buffalo on Huntington Avenue, with no idea I was going to make a contribution to society.

The harsh winters prepared me for some great journeys in life and the experience as a paperboy for The Buffalo News ingrained the skills necessary to be a warrior for the unforgiving life ahead.

I joined the U.S. Air Force and explored the world. Then I settled down in Phoenix, Ariz., and decided to follow my passion of fitness.

I had competed in several bodybuilding contests as a teen and worked at the Fitness Trend on Delaware Avenue.

Many of the skills I learned as a delivery boy became relevant as a business owner. Time management, finances, responsibilities. During my late 30s I was sick for a long period of time and undiagnosed for several months.

The doctors could not pinpoint the cause of why my body was falling apart but I understood the tenacity needed to endure the difficult task. Little did I know all the skills I learned as a young adult were to be used to save my life.

Ross Suozzi.

It was months before a conclusive diagnosis was made and non-Hodgkin lymphoma was not my new friend. Nor was I happy to hear I was the new member of the cancer club. How do you prepare for an event like this? There is no training on how to tackle this life-threatening issue.

I already had the skills and the belief I was going to make it through this. After many setbacks and over a year of treatment, I was cancer free. Trying to heal the wounds and gather my composure rebuilding my life was the next venture.

A few years after my treatment, my wife was diagnosed with cervical cancer and the start of an entire process began yet again. This time we understood the need to plan our lives better and be prepared for the unknown. Corinna’s journey lasted a few months and she successfully conquered cancer.

Time went on and our family began to mature. Our oldest son, Lorenzo, was attending college and on one weekend his life changed. It began with a cough and perhaps mononucleosis. Corinna insisted he go to the emergency room; we were told that day that Lorenzo was diagnosed with leukemia.

This was a major blow to our family. The main goal was to keep our emotions contained and focus on a treatment plan.

Within three days of his diagnosis Lorenzo began a yearlong treatment plan.

As a young adult it was important for him to have an uplifting environment, to be supported so his life was not taken away and he not be cheated out of time. Our approach created a life plan that outlined treatment, life and fun – something we forget about during cancer treatment.

Lorenzo succeeded with his cancer battle and we are a family of three survivors. Some professionals have explained we are the only family they are aware to have three cancer survivors, all of different cancers, in one family.

I have written a new book, titled “Cancer: It’s Not a Death Sentence,” that illustrates our family’s journey and outlines the skills one needs for a successful cancer battle. Cancer patients can learn to live life on their terms during treatment.

Ross Suozzi, a Buffalo native, owns a fitness studio in Arizona and works as a motivational speaker.

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