UPDATE: According to Ox who received an email, the hospital found a heart and Chris will be going into surgery this morning, 11/29/12, at 7am.
On any given day, in any given gym across America, Animals exhibit
strength, fight and grit by lifting iron. But on the afternoon of
Tuesday, November 20th, Animal got a personal and very uplifting look
at what true strength really is in Valhalla, New York. It all started a
week before when we received an email from a fan with a simple subject
line that read:
A FAN IN NEED.
A fan... Chris Slavin. Fans often need and want many things. We receive
hundreds of emails where Animal loyalists ask us for
t-shirts, hats, banners, or samples of Animal Rage. But this email from this
particular fan was different. Chris asked us to forward his letter to
one of our athletes, Evan Ox Centopani.
In need Chris was diagnosed this past July with a rare heart cancer
that was discovered after he went through surgery the month before to
remove a tumor in his heart. By September, Chris had undergone three
rounds of extremely aggressive chemotherapy. Chris writes, I am in the
stages of receiving a heart transplant because no amount of chemo or
radiation would have been able to kill all the cancer in my body. Right
now this is the third week I have been waiting and I am hoping that it
comes soon since I have not had a treatment in a while and each day
there is a chance that it could spread.
According to Chris, only seventeen patients have undergone this type of
heart transplant and, of those, only three have survived beyond two years, tumor-free. Three people. Despite these daunting odds, do you think Chris had
thrown in the towel? Many likely would have done so in his shoes. After
all, Chris tells us, My life has completely been flipped upside down
from being a very healthy, 22-year old college student to a weak,
little, scared kid fighting for his life. Understandable. But instead
of giving up, Chris chose to fight.
In that fight, he drew upon bodybuilding (as many of us do) as a source
of inspiration and strength: Bodybuilding was my life and I loved,
lived, breathed, ate and dreamt about getting bigger every day and
would like to pursue that dream after my recovery if everything goes as
planned. That is his future. For his present, Chris had a few simple
requests. First, Chris wanted a personal response from Ox. Second, he
desired an autographed poster of his bodybuilding hero to hang in his
hospital room, but only if Ox could pull some strings.
Ox didn't need to pull any strings. Upon reading this email, we knew we had to do more than have Ox respond
to the email and sign a poster. The first thing we did was contact Ox.
Upon hearing about the matter, Ox immediately volunteered to visit
Chris in the hospital the following week, November 20th. As Ox told us,
Is there anyone who wouldnt go? I mean, come on. With all the good
fortune Ive been allotted in life, going to see Chris hardly puts a
dent in paying off my tab.
We then planned for Eric to accompany Ox as a show of support from
everyone here at the company. Finally, we got Muscular
Development involved as well to help profile Chris amazing courage and
to shed light on his moving story.
But before that visit, Ox wrote back to Chris. In his letter, Ox told
of his fathers own experience with cancer. In October 2011, Oxs
father, Victor, had his right lung removed along with a section of his
heart due to a rare form of neuroendocrine cancer. Despite the surgery
and despite chemotherapy, the cancer came back and spread to his chest
and neck. The week before he went to visit Chris, Ox had spent time taking his
father to various appointments with the oncologist and the surgeon.
With this personal experience, Ox told Chris:
Chris, I would never act as if I have the slightest clue as to what it
feels like for anyone who is fighting cancer. Truth be told, to fight
for your life may be the ultimate test of any man. Hey man, I know it
may be easy to find inspiration in people you see on television or in
magazines. When I was younger, I was easily enamored with people who
seem to possess a larger than life image. As Ive gotten older, Ive
come to understand that image and substance dont always come as a
Fame, glamour, celebrity status and image will always pale in
comparison to genuine substance. You cant buy substance at any price
and you cant convincingly portray it regardless of how good the actor,
the filmmaker, the cameraman. And thats because substance and
character are developed through adversity. Flattering as it may be that
you are inspired by me, the reality is that I am inspired by you and
your decision to fight for your life, beat cancer, heal yourself and
become the fourth person in the world to not only endure this
transplant and remain tumor free, but to go on and live your life as
you see fit.
That day, Ox stayed with Chris in that hospital room for four hours
long after the cameras stopped flashing. As he told us, The last thing I wanted to do was show up and hit the
road. The truth is, I may have benefited even more than him from our
Not only did Ox sign some posters for him, he also gave Chris a personal copy of a book
called, As A Man Thinketh by James Allen. Ox talked to us about how
he received this special edition from Oscar Ardon back in 2009 and how
that book helped him strengthen his mind:
Being a bodybuilding fan, I thought Chris might get a kick out of the
fact that Oscar had given me the book inside which he wrote a small
message to me. On the opposite page I wrote a message to Chris. Giving the book to Chris was much
more than me offering him a piece of "memorabilia." It was about me giving Chris something that had helped me in so
many aspects of my own life that I knew could help him as well. Back in 2009 Oscar invested a lot of time in
helping me. I spent 2-3 hours with him, 5 days a week, for 8 weeks. He never
accepted any money for his help and when the show was over and the
cameras rolled, the guy was long gone. I sincerely believe he helped me
because he wanted to and because he was doing something he believed in. I've had a lot of help and a lot of
great people behind me. People DO things because they believe in
I know Ox does things because he believes in them. I also know hes the
kind of individual who gives back what he has received what he calls
paying off a tab. This is the essence of being an Animal. Animal is
much more than being a meathead. While the pursuit of big muscles is
something that we all share, being an Animal also means having a big
heart and giving back. Ox truly symbolizes this value.
Shortly after the visit, we received a follow up email from Chris. Reading his letter was a moving experience:
I just saw the forums of Animal and MD and everything turned out
awesome and I couldn't ask for anything more! Words cannot express how
motivated, happy, lucky, excited and gracious I feel at this moment! I
am in such shock right now that so many people (who I don't even know
and don't know me) posted such caring and supportive messages about
their faith and hope that I will beat this f*cking thing.
This whole experience has put a new perspective on my life from
inspiration and motivation to even a new and different outlook on
mankind; that people are willing to help out strangers when they are
down and out despite not knowing them. For instance, Sprint [from the
Animal FORVM] wrote, "Is there a way to get updates on Chris' condition
posted up somewhere here? Animal is family, we stand & fight
together whether it means getting somebody pumped for a big lift, or
keeping up to speed with the progress of a brother as he kicks the shit
out of that thing. Maybe there's a way he could get a Journey started
in here, & as a whole we can help him past any sticking points he
may encounter during the toughest set of his life."
I just couldnt believe people cared to that extent on how difficult of
a situation I am going through and that they truly felt for me. It just
blew my mind in such a positive way that I know I am going to be
victorious in the biggest battle I hope to ever face in my life. Also,
as a fan of Animal for the past few years (since you saw me already
wearing a tee shirt from you guys, and I honestly didnt even expect
you guys would be the ones to come, or ever come it was just a complete
coincidence) it gave me a new meaning and perspective on the company of
Animal itself. Like the Sprint said, Animal is a family and I am a
firm believer now that that is true and you guys have been the best
support ever. To be honest even better and caring than some of my own
family I have to say, sadly but true since some havent even come to
visit me, so you can obviously see how much this has meant to me.
But regardless, again thank you so much to the whole Animal team for
everything and if there is anything I could do for you guys dont
hesitate to ask! Or I will just keep you updated by sending you emails
on what is going on with my surgery and recovery etc. Just let me know.
Lastly, thank you so much again for everything you guys have done for
me and you have truly put a new meaning to what family means in my life.
Chris, far from being a scared kid, you are a young man who has shown
us a thing or two about courage and strength. Sometimes, we forget what
those words truly means until we see it in person, up close and
personal. We know youre going to beat this. We know that one day soon,
you will leave that bed in Valhalla to battle the iron once more as a
warrior. When youre ready, well be there to fight with you. On behalf
of Animal and the entire Animal Nation who has come to know you, we
wish you nothing but the best. Get up and rise to the occasion, Chris.
Stand and meet your challenges head on.
NOTE: For those individuals interested in leaving Chris a comment, a word or two of inspiration or motivation, you can do so in this thread.