Vice President of Digital Strategy
Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Survivor
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Christian’s cancer diagnosis came from no family history of cancer and a single lump on his collarbone.
Christian Bullock joins the Gryt Health Team from a remote location surrounded by tall forest trees, a bubbling creek, and lots of stars in the night sky in Battle Ground, Washington, as our VP, Digital Strategy. He typically has a hand in how everything looks and sounds when put out into the world.
Christian’s wife, Jess, has been his number one supporter and fan. They have been married for 12 years and have two kids. His immediate and extended family are all close and are a huge source of support for him. His twin brother is tied for the best friend position with his wife. They have a bond unlike any other and typically talk daily. His wife, twin, children, and parents are at the top of his support system, and other family and friends round out that system.
Christian attended Eastern Washington University in Cheney, Washington, as a history major before transferring to the University of Nevada-Reno for his sophomore year. He refined his history major and considered a minor in Holocaust Studies. Due to being homesick and missing his family, including his twin brother, Christian returned to finish his undergraduate education at Washington State University in Pullman, Washington. There he received a degree in Communications with a minor in English. Christian determined that he loved history but didn’t think it was the right thing as a major. He had developed an interest in journalism and advertising, which fed the switch in majors.
Professionally, Christian has worked at two digital agency start-ups. At one agency, he was the first employee after the founder, and he was there for almost seven years. During that time, Christian wore many different hats and learned a lot. The office was located in Portland, Oregon, and he and his wife had started their family. Having been doing some remote side work, Christian decided that he no longer wanted an hour and a half one-way commute daily. Hence, he switched gears and was hired as the first employee at another digital marketing agency for almost eight years. He also wore many hats at that agency but enjoyed dealing with Search Engine Optimization (SEO), so he landed the position of Director of SEO. After his diagnosis, Christian eventually landed at Gryt Health.
What first drew Christian to Gryt Health was witnessing Founder/CEO David Craig in the cancer community. Christian was impressed with the way that Dave presented himself and how open he was about his experiences. Christian was so impressed that he reached out to Dave directly and requested a meeting. The rest, as they say, is history. Christian started with Gryt Health as a part-time consultant and joined the team full-time in his current position in January 2021 after about two and a half years of part-time contributions.
Christian shares that Gryt Health has worked hard to assemble a fantastic team of people he enjoys working with on the team. Still, he authentically likes and cares about them because they are not only stellar professionals but great individuals. Additionally, the majority of the team has a personal, vested interest in what Gryt Health does either due to personal, direct experiences or those of people they care about. The team is not only seeking answers, but they are seeking support themselves, so it’s all that much easier to give support in return. Christian believes that Gryt Health leads by example in all senses of the meaning – from business practices to physical and mental health self-care. Gryt Health makes the entire employee’s well-being a priority.
Christian’s own lymphoma diagnosis really came out of nowhere and shocked him just as his life was going in all the directions he wanted it to go. He and his wife were happy personally and professionally, their kids were happy and healthy and they had just moved into their new, peaceful home. He was a generally healthy person prior to his cancer diagnosis and led an active lifestyle. Without any family history, his diagnosis blindsided him and caused an overall dramatic shift in the lives of everyone in his family. He is spurred to use his voice to talk with others about his experiences because cancer is an undiscriminating disease that can affect anyone.
The first clue that something was amiss came in January 2017 when Christian was showering and noticed a lump on his neck. Since he was a healthy, active individual, he was not established with a Primary Care Physician at the time. He discussed things with his wife and they decided he’d go to Urgent Care to have the lump checked out. Things snowballed fairly quickly from there and Christian was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a specific type of blood cancer, after an ultrasound and a biopsy. Initially, medical personnel thought that the lump would be benign, but it was not. That began his roller-coaster ride through lymphoma.
Christian didn’t always agree with his treatment plan so sometimes he wishes he would have approached things a bit differently early on in his diagnosis. When he first met with his oncologist, he really did not have much information and just blindly agreed to go along with the treatment plan. Initially he only really knew that he wanted to avoid radiation, if possible. Unfortunately, the NCCN guidelines did include radiation for Hodgkin’s lymphoma and Christian agreed. However, Christian’s ABVD chemotherapy worked extremely well and after four of the twelve infusions he was scheduled for, his PET scan was almost completely clear and the course of treatment changed. Christian completed five infusions and still needed to do radiation, but at a reduced plan.
The most challenging part of Christian’s treatment was having to deal with two different PICC lines. Christian found them annoying and troublesome. He was constantly worried about them coming out of his arm. One actually did have a mishap while he and his wife were assembling a swing set for his children and that’s when the second line was put in. Christian recognizes that things could have been much worse and that things, overall, came out pretty well.
One of Christian’s memorable experiences from treatment revolve around a particular oncology nurse he saw nearly every time he had treatments. Christian says that she was a terrific supporter, as someone that was a bit younger in age than other workers and patients at the oncology office.
During his treatment, Christian selectively shared his diagnosis with his family, friends, and current employers. Ironically, despite the work he has done in digital media throughout the years, Christian is not a huge fan of social media so he generally does not post a lot about his own journey. However, his wife, Jess sometimes does, especially around the time of his cancerversary. The date that Christian recognizes as his cancerversary is when he received his NED (No Evidence of Disease) status, which is August 1. He allows himself to be tagged in cancerversary posts even though he does not have a strong need to share about that either.
Despite being selective in the sharing of his personal experiences, Christian felt it was important to use his voice in the cancer community to amplify all voices in the community and it is what led to his shift in career. Helping to change how we communicate within the community while stringing the experiences together into stories is a driving force behind Christian’s voice. His personal mission is to help craft people’s stories in a way in which they are comfortable and find small ways for people to connect their stories with others in a way that allows them to both help and feel supported.
One thing that Christian wishes someone would have told him early in his cancer journey is about how the aspect of mental health infiltrates into all areas of the cancer journey. Someone should warn cancer patients at diagnosis that you’ll have that little nagging voice sitting on your shoulder making you think about all the possibilities of things that could go wrong along the way. As someone who had not had many traumatic experiences in his life prior to his cancer diagnosis, he was not at all prepared for the pressure on his mental health status while dealing with cancer.
Life after cancer for Christian is definitely different as he navigates life through survivorship. He has problems with memory retention and has to really work to take a lot of notes and use post-its to keep track of things. Trying to balance family and work lives with the responsibilities of actively monitoring his health and following up with doctors’ visits and scans can sometimes cause strain in his life.
Christian shared he tends to be pretty particular with hobbies because he doesn’t usually have a lot of free time. The former hockey player doesn’t hit the ice often anymore, but he does still enjoy watching it. Living in a rural area allows him to have an unobstructed view of the night sky so he and his family enjoy using his telescope and learning about astronomy. When Christian has the chance to pick up a book, he really enjoys reading science fiction and fantasy primarily. He also enjoys playing Magic: The Gathering card game with his family and friends. And he’ll always want time for a Dota game or two.