By Greg Dudek
Everything can change in a day and for Bridgewater State University sophomore Austin Laffan it will be a day he will never forget.
Laffan, who is an athletic training major, has the date July 19, 2011, etched in his mind because that is the day Laffan was diagnosed with testicular cancer.
“When I found out I had cancer, I said to myself, ‘Why me? What did I do to get this awful disease,’” Laffan said. “The most nerve racking part of having cancer is death. I constantly thought what if I die.”
A month after graduating from Taunton High School, Laffan went to the doctor for his yearly checkup. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary until his doctor found a lump, which ended up being cancerous.
A week and a half after the diagnosis and just two days after turning 19, Laffan went to the hospital to get the lump removed and begin a 12-week session of chemotherapy.
Laffan missed the start of his freshman year at Bridgewater State, but he had other things to worry about.
Ten weeks into his chemotherapy treatment, doctors realized the chemotherapy was no longer working, but Laffan was not going to give up his fight.
“What inspired me not to give up was my family and close friends,” Laffan said. “I grew up at a little league complex where everyone knew me and my family. That second family put together a fundraiser for me and that’s when I knew I couldn’t back down.”
Laffan went into surgery soon after as doctors tried a new approach of taking the lymph nodes from his stomach.
On November 29, 2011, Laffan went in for a cat scan, where he found the surgery was successful, he was cancer free.
“My thoughts on November 29 were ‘What a relief,’” Laffan said. “It was a huge burden in my life. I couldn’t attend college or do anything because I was so sick.”
Laffan was then able to start classes at Bridgewater State and became involved on campus. One of the things Laffan became involved with was Relay For Life, which was held at Bridgewater State this past Friday.
Laffan’s involvement with Relay For Life predates his battle with cancer, as he began participating in 2008 to honor his uncle who had passed away from the disease.
“I think he is an inspiration to his peers about the struggles he has gone through to get here,” said Ashlee Downing, program coordinator of the Bridgewater State Community Service Center and advisor to the Relay For Life event held at Bridgewater State. “It shows that dedication and hard work can pay off.
“His dedication to Relay shows that as a survivor he wants to continue to help others who are going through what he went through and provide support.”
Currently, Laffan has taken the semester off, but plans to return in the fall. Despite not being on campus, his impact he has left on others is still felt.
“Austin is a wonderful young man who I am so happy I have had the opportunity to get to know and work with,” Downing said. “He inspires me to never give up and to remember to appreciate every day as a blessing because no one is promised tomorrow.”
For Laffan, what seemed like just another ordinary day almost three years ago has forever changed his outlook on life.
“I have learned life is really too short,” Laffan said. “You never know when something could change your life so drastically. Live life to the fullest.”
Greg Dudek is The Comment’s Editor-In-Chief. Follow him on Twitter at gdudek10 or email him at email@example.com.