Papa Joe’s Story

Papa Joe A.

If you know anything about me, you probably know me as the guy who lost 250 lbs by walking and shopping at the 99 Cent Only store. That was the identifier attached to me, until the beginning of last year. I thought that I had already gone through the trials and tribulations of my life, and had come out the other side of things healthier than ever.  I had taken my 450 lbs of obesity into my own hands, and made the conscious decision to lose the weight. It was a long and difficult journey, but I set a goal and accomplished it.  I even became an ambassador to the 99 Cent Only store, and the American Heart Association, because of the work that I put in. Color me surprised (literally) when I was admitted to the hospital last January with jaundice – ultimately leading doctors to run advanced tests on me. I will never forget the morning that my doctor walked into my hospital room and said those three words that you never want to hear from your doctor: “You have cancer.” Not only that, but you have a life expectancy of six months to two years to live!

SAY, “WHAT?” How could I possibly have cancer, and only six months to live? I had changed everything in my life over the course of several years.  I was exercising, eating right, abstaining from harmful habits.  I had paid my dues! I was just about to start a pity party of one, when I realized that this was just one more journey that I was going to have to go through – and come out on the other side of – to make me who I am.  One of my most successful tactics in my weight loss journey was the power of positivity. I took all of the emotions that I had surrounding my diagnosis, and made the decision that I was going to focus all of my energy into positivity.

I was diagnosed with Stage IV Cholangiocarcinoma. This is a rare cancer of the bile duct and liver, and the very nasty cause of my jaundice. The increase in Cholangiocarcinoma mortality is the highest amongst African Americans.  My prognosis wasn’t great, I’m not going to lie. I was not a candidate for surgery because the mass was so large, so after reviewing my options with my doctor I elected to go with chemo to see if we could shrink it. I was nervous about starting chemo, mostly because of what I had heard from other friends, but I was determined that I was going to get that cancer out of my body. I spoke with other patients while we sat together, I heard their stories, I tried to make them laugh. I tried to give them as much positivity as I had to give to help them through their own journey. And they in turn, helped me with mine! In addition, during my chemo sessions, I wrote a book and became an Amazon best-selling author, where I share my weight loss journey called, “Balancing the Scales”. It was a great way for me to “pay it forward” and help those trying to start or maintain a healthy lifestyle. Also, I was blessed to have been in the top 2% of people that had no side effects to chemo, what so ever. No loss of hair or nausea. Nothing! My oncologist Dr Nassir, tells other patients that he’s treated his first “superhuman”.  Maybe it was the positive vibes, maybe it was karma – but after a year of chemo and six weeks of radiation, we successfully shrunk that tumor!! As of my last visit, my tumor marker levels are almost undetectable and I’m a FINALLY a candidate for surgery!

I had always been very forthcoming with my friends and family about my weight loss journey, so I decided that I was going to open up my life and include them in my cancer journey as well.  This is one of the best decisions that I ever made.  Having friends and family, patients, doctors, nurses and staff rally behind me, supporting me, loving me, making me laugh… well that made all the difference. This journey has made such an impact on my life that I’m writing book #2. I encourage you to share your journey with your loved ones. I encourage you to share your journey with other people like me, because we know what you’re going through! You are definitely not alone. Try your best to keep your focus on the positive things in your life. Positivity brings positivity, and my renewed life is a reflection of that!! 

GRYT is losing 250 lbs, only to be diagnosed with Stage IV cancer

GRYT is writing my first book while simultaneously going through chemo, because I wasn’t going to let cancer steal my life from me

GRYT is overcoming all of the odds to come out on the other end with a medical miracle

GRYT is trusting in yourself and those around you to be open about your feelings and supportive. 

If you would like to chat with me, please find me on my social channels! 

Facebook: www.facebook.com/ThePapaJoeAviance

Instagram: www.instagram.com/papajoeaviance

Twitter: www.twitter.com/papajoeaviance

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