LOS FELIZ—His story is one of survival and great inspiration. Less than two years ago, Silver Lake resident Tad Coughenour was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer known as Burkitt’s Lymphoma. The cancer affects about 300 U.S. adults a year and the symptoms were so devastating that Tad couldn’t drive a car and could barely walk. He had never heard of Burkitt’s Lymphoma before he was diagnosed with the rare form of the disease. He knew some friends who had lymphoma, but not the rare form that he was diagnosed with. “It was pretty scary when I heard of it,” Tad said. But after numerous rounds of chemotherapy and support from his family and friends, Tad is now a cancer survivor who has been in remission for more than a year.
Battling cancer has changed Tad’s outlook on life. “Everything has changed. I don’t take anything for granted. I appreciate life more,” Tad said. He has made dietary changes and began doing things that he never did before, like running. Tad’s father is a cross-country coach, and as a kid, Tad never ran for his father. Tad’s father is currently battling a brain tumor, similar to what Ted Kennedy had recently been diagnosed with. He indicated that going through his battle with cancer has brought him and his father closer. While going through chemo Tad spent one week in the hospital for every three weeks, for six months. He gives his father advice on how to cope with the chemotherapy and his father gives him advice on running.
As a cancer survivor, Tad’s purpose in life is to help others who are battling chronic diseases and illnesses. For the past few months, Tad has been training with the National Aids Marathon Training program as he prepares to complete the San Francisco Marathon in August 2008. The program is a renowned training program regimen that prepares runners of any experience level to complete a marathon while helping to raise money to provide services to individuals battling HIV/AIDS in the Los Angeles area. Within the last 10 years, more than $80 million has been raised by marathon runners to develop programs and provide services to people battling the deadly disease. More than 60,000 people in the Los Angeles County are currently battling HIV/AIDS, higher now than ever before. To prepare for the marathon, Tad indicated that he runs about four times a week or sometimes he’ll run three times a week and swim once a week for a mile.
Tad first heard about the National Aids Marathon after a friend came to visit him while he was in the hospital back in November 2006. His friend told him about the marathon and asked if he wanted to run. That propelled Tad to get involved in the marathon after he completed his chemotherapy.
Every Saturday Tad runs together with other AIDS Marathon participants at Griffith Park to prepare for the marathon this summer. He indicated that they have little communities. "The camaraderie amongst people is great," Tad added. “Everyone has their reason for running,” he said. "Everyone knows people who have died from HIV/AIDS or knows someone who is battling the deadly disease," he added. In addition to running, Tad meditates. He remembers his father telling him that “The race is won in the mind.”
“I can envision myself crossing that finish line in August,” Tad said. Tad hopes by running in the marathon that he will teach people to take a little time, to stop what they’re doing and to see how they can be a service to their community. Running in this marathon is “the first way of serving the community,” he said. “It’s important for people to take a look at their community and see what’s happening and to see how they can make a difference.” The AIDS Project Los Angeles is important because it provides services to people who are in need of them. They are able to make sure people get to the hospital through funding that is raised. The organization is in its 25th year of providing direct services, education programs and advocacy for people living with HIV/AIDS in the community.
Tad is originally from Kingsport, Tennessee. He describes it as a small town where everyone had a strong southern accent. As a child, Tad always knew that he wanted to be an actor. At the age of eight, he began participating in community theater programs. He recalled getting his first big break which occurred right after high school graduation when he drove from Tennessee to New York to work in professional theater. He recently completed shooting the film “The Redwood” which was shot in Northern California. It’s the first job he has done since successfully winning his battle with cancer.
“Don’t give up.” That’s the advice Tad gives to anyone who is battling cancer or illness. When asked how his health is today, Tad responded, "fantastic." Tad kept a self-portrait book of pictures of himself while he was sick. On the last page of his portrait book there is a quote beneath a picture of a healthy looking Tad that says “Breathe in, every new day is a gift.” He explains that the world would be a better place if we all did this.
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