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NEWS | July 12, 2019

Cancer survivor rucks 150 miles to raise funds for pediatric cancer

By Mr. Thomas Brading United States Army News Service

For a civil affairs Army Reserve Soldier, beating cancer was the first step in a 150-mile ruck march to raise money for pediatric cancer. 

While Spc. Shayn Lindquist participated in the 2017 Army's Best Warrior competition, his vision started becoming "fuzzy." However, he didn't know it was about to change his life. 

At the time, "it didn't strike me as anything too serious," he said, regarding his blurred vision. "Then it became more persistent and harder to ignore."

Lindquist, a Michigan native and former hockey player at Central Michigan University, had no reason to think his blurred vision was from anything more than a minor injury. He considered himself to be in great health, but to be sure, he went to an eye doctor. 

The doctor found nothing wrong with his eyes, but recommended an MRI. The results stopped him in his tracks. He had a brain tumor. A biopsy would later confirm it was cancerous. 

"I was in shock," he recalled. "I couldn't believe what I was hearing. After I got off the phone (with the doctor), I didn't know what to do."

At first, Lindquist sat quietly in his college dorm, unable to process the information. After the news sank in, he picked up his phone and called his parents. From day one, his mom never left his side; he says she attended every medical appointment and gave him strength. 

With a positive outlook, he didn't let cancer slow him down. While working toward his undergraduate degree, studying international relations, he continued attending drill weekends with the 414th Civil Affairs Battalion, and remained resilient. 

In school, he kept a 3.6 GPA, in spite of often driving nearly four hours from Mount Pleasant in central Michigan to Ann Arbor near Michigan's southeastern corner for medical treatments.

Shortly after his spring semester, he began medical treatment at University of Michigan's Michigan Medicine. Lindquist was allergic to the medicine that university doctors first attempted to use. So, the doctors tried Benadryl to combat his initial allergic reaction, which also failed. On the third try, they successfully measured an appropriate dosage. 

"Once I was able to start chemotherapy, things started going good," he said. 

After completing chemotherapy, he began the next step -- radiation therapy. However, unlike the chemo, which his body responded to well, radiation took a heavy toll on him. He lost a lot of weight, his hair began falling out, and his immune system became very weak. 

"I wanted to sleep all day," he said, "I've never been more tired in my life."

He pushed forward and in November 2017, six months after his diagnosis, he successfully went into remission and has been cancer free since. 

While receiving treatment, Lindquist started a nonprofit organization that quickly developed into his "Ruck for a Cure" event. The 150-mile ruck march, beginning in Clare, Michigan, to the Mackinac Bridge, a suspension bridge connecting Michigan's upper and lower peninsulas, raised money for charities dedicated to fighting pediatric cancer. 

During its inaugural year, "Ruck for a Cure" raised more than $3,000. The next Ruck for the Cure is scheduled for Aug. 24, 2019. 

"I just wanted to prove to myself I could physically do it," he said. "That's how the idea started, from there I wanted to help others, too."

Half of the proceeds went to Special Days Camp, a camp for children with cancer and their siblings where Lindquist volunteers during the summer, and the other half went to St. Jude's Children's Hospital. 

Down the road, Lindquist's goals are to complete his undergraduate degree in December, and to continue raising money for pediatric cancer patients with his next ruck march. He also wants to eventually become an Army officer.

"The Army inspires me to keep a strong mindset," he said. "Hard times are going to come, but it's important to always stay positive. For me, this was a minor bump in the road."