Every now and then you meet someone and almost instinctively think to yourself that person has “it.” You know what I mean. You sense something about them. You know that they are going to make a difference.
That was what we thought when we met Henry Carr in early 2016. He was a freshman at the College of the Holy Cross. We didn’t yet know that he was vice president of his class or that he chose a complex double major – political science and Arabic – or that he had been accepted into the honors program. We just knew he had “it.”
15-40 Connection was at Holy Cross that winter night in 2016 teaching students how to detect cancer early. There are lots of reasons why this is important but one of the biggest is the fact that early detection is the best medicine for cancer and, as you know, a lot of people get cancer. So many, in fact, we know that within every group of 500 people that we teach, roughly 200 will be diagnosed with cancer during their lifetime and our 3 Steps Detect education can help save their lives.
Henry told us that he thought what we were teaching was great and really important. Then he told us why: Henry had recently beaten cancer.
After learning 3 Steps Detect, Henry realized that he had cancer symptoms before he was diagnosed. However, like most people, he had no idea what a cancer symptom could feel or look like. Without this knowledge, the signals his cancer had been sending him didn’t seem alarming and weren’t dramatic, so he wasn’t overly concerned.
Henry’s initial diagnosis
Henry’s symptoms started as knee pain, but he ran cross country and played basketball, so he was used to having some pain. When his knee pain persisted, Henry mentioned it to the trainer who thought it was shin splints. Over the next few weeks his pain increased a bit and his knee swelled. His parents took him to a doctor, who diagnosed it as a ligament strain. The treatment was rest, ice and ibuprofen.
The pain and swelling continued for a few months, and while it was annoying and slowed him down a bit, it didn’t stop him from getting through his day. Henry thought his leg was just healing slowly.
That is until the day his leg broke. A tumor in his femur – his thigh bone – had grown large enough to cause it to break. Henry had bone cancer. He was a junior in high school.
Amazingly, he took it all in stride. He endured the treatments, scheduling them around his school and community commitments, and was then declared cancer-free and with crutches in hand he was named his school’s Prom King.
The impact Henry made on us
Henry’s cancer story is unique to him but the lessons he learned are not. He realized he could help teach others – the sooner people receive this education, the more often it can deliver the best medicine for cancer: early detection. Henry’s cancer grew quickly which is why this education is so important.
He shared his story on 15-40 Connection’s “Learn From Me” web page and spoke as an early cancer detection advocate to audiences learning 3 Steps Detect for the first time. He used his experience to illustrate how cancer symptoms can feel and why it is so important to collaborate with your doctors.
That summer, Henry learned his cancer had returned. He went back to treatments, scheduling them around his school commitments. He had chemotherapy and a full course load. He was staying in the honors program.
As you know, the world is small. Enter a Holy Cross graduate who is two-time cancer survivor, and a 15-40 Connection volunteer, Rich Carr – no relation to Henry. Rich hosts a 5K at Holy Cross during family weekend and the proceeds support 15-40 Connection. Rich met Henry and the 2016 race was held in his honor.
After the race, Henry delivered a heartfelt thank you and impassioned speech to the participants. Here is what he said that day –
Dealing with a recurrence
This time around, Henry’s cancer was much more difficult to keep in check. He tried different treatments but his cancer always seemed to find a way to thrive despite medicine’s best efforts to control it.
In the spring, he made the incredibly difficult decision to enter hospice care. His cancer was too advanced to stop and the medicine wasn’t working. He started to feel better after stopping treatment. He finished his finals and then ticked off items on his bucket list. Look at him on the Green Monster. He met Theo Epstein at a Cubs game, spent time in New York City with his parents and friends. He even went to the season finale of Saturday Night Live.
15-40 Connection was on his bucket list. What an honor! Henry and his mom came to our offices for lunch on the last day of May. We had a great lunch. He brought “it” with him that day.
Then…five days later, Henry died. It was and still is devastating news.
Why 3 Steps Detect matters
We can’t help but wonder….what if Henry had been taught the 3 Steps Detect early in high school, before he felt symptoms and well before his first diagnosis?
We think about him every day. He inspires us. He is a big reason why we are so passionate about teaching 3 Steps Detect to as many people as soon as possible. We don’t want to lose another Henry.
Teaching more people how to detect cancer early will create more success stories – like the two teachers who this spring said they detected cancer early because of what 15-40 Connection taught them last year and Caitlin who publically thanks 15-40 Connection for saving her life. Their cancers have been treated. They are back to living full lives. They fuel our passion, too.
Henry wanted to teach people how to detect cancer early for good reasons. When he entered hospice care, he told his mom that he hoped he would not be forgotten. Please help us do what Henry can no longer do – teach others 3 Steps Detect. Do it for Henry, learn it for you and share it with every Henry you do not want to lose.