Vince Capaldi is not your average 25 year-old.
Vince and his professional skateboarder brother Mike Mo Capaldi are co-owners and founders of Glassy Sunhaters, a new sunglasses company. The two of them live together in California in a house any young man wishes he could have; it has a pool table, mini basketball hoop inside and a basketball court outside, the walls are lined with Mike’s skateboards, and there is never a shortage of friends hanging out on the couch watching TV or getting ready for a skate session.
But this is not why Vince is unique. Just two days before turning 21, Vince was diagnosed with Ewings Sarcoma, a rare, non-genetic form of bone cancer.
Stories of young adults facing cancer are increasingly common these days and is one of the reasons we need to get serious about addressing the environmental links to cancer.
We asked Vince a few questions about his experience with cancer and treatment and this is what he had to say:
Safer Chemicals: Can you tell us a bit about your treatment process?
Vince: My overall treatment cycle was broken into 4 stages. The first stage was four months of chemotherapy, which I had once every three weeks. The second stage was one month straight of radiation; five days a week for about 90 seconds a day. The third stage was the actual removal of the cancer (in my right humorous), which was replaced with a cobalt rod that spans from my elbow to my shoulder. The fourth stage was another eight months of chemotherapy once every 3 week.
SCHF: Did you have anyone that was with you through the entire process?
Vince: I had the support of my friends and family. My mom took on full responsibility for me; if she hadn’t been there, I wouldn’t be here.
SCHF: What are the challenges you faced as being a young adult with cancer?
Vince: The most challenging part was the horrible side-affects from treatment and what it made me look like physically. It’s a really humbling experience to let everyone see that you’re going through a serious disease that you don't even know the outcome of. You're walking around extremely pale, worn out, and have no hair anywhere on your body. Everyone is literally seeing you slowly get killed. But as bad as that sounds, I always knew (and witnessed) that my situation was a lot better than some other cancer patients.
SCHF: And how are you doing now?
Vince: I have never felt better. My last chemo treatment was in December of 2009 and my last scan was in October of 2012. After five years doctors consider you “cancer free,” so I still have some time, but I can't be happier.
SCHF: We know that cancer is complex, and it’s hard to say how or why any one person gets cancer. But new science shows us that toxic chemicals, that we’re exposed to everyday, are linked to some cancers. How important do you think it is that we regulate and these toxic chemicals?
Vince: I think its very important to regulate toxic chemicals, but I know that is a hard fight since the biggest and most influential companies in the world would rather make money than improve the quality of life. What is really sad is that those same companies market to "cancer awareness" for sales. I don't think Oreos are doing much to help stop cancer, but they will cash in on it by throwing a pink ribbon on their packaging...
SCHF: How does it make you feel knowing there are toxic chemicals, legally allowed on the market in the U.S?
Vince: It’s horrible. I try to avoid them as much as possible and spread the word about it. But it’s hard to convince people because they usually have the "It’s ok, it won’t happen to me" type of mentally. Honestly, I remember vividly thinking that before I was diagnosed with cancer.
SCHF: The Safe Chemicals Act is a bill that would increase the safety of chemicals, removing some cancer causing chemicals from the market. If you could talk to your Senators today, what would you tell them is the most important reason to pass the Safe Chemicals Act?
Vince: Going through cancer first hand is one thing, but witnessing a loved one going through it has got to be a lot more punishing. There isn’t anything they can do to help the patient beat cancer, all they can do is sit there, watching and hoping for the best and be there for moral support. I think that it the most important reason we need the Safe Chemicals Act. If Senators witness a family member go through an experience with cancer, I believe it would change a lot of minds that controlling chemicals through the EPA and government was a good thing.
SCHF: If you met someone who was recently diagnosed with cancer, what would you tell him or her to help them through their experience?
Vince: I had one of the most aggressive cancers and it was in the 3rd stage. I remember the look on my doctor’s face and tone he spoke in when he broke the news to me. He was really concerned about my health and future. He actually told me, "most cancer patients that do the best during treatment always had the best attitude and believed in a 'higher power.'" I took that advice and planted it in my everyday life. So my advice is to be positive, take one day at a time and to remember that there is someone who has it worse than you.
In an effort to help those who are going through what Vince experienced, his company, Glassy Sunhaters, is selling special edition “Cancer Hater” sunglasses and t-shirts, which feature the yellow Ewing’s Sarcoma ribbon. All profits of the glasses and t-shirts sold this month go to help Sam Libassi, a good friend of Vince’s who recently found out that his Ewing’s Sarcoma has returned and spread to several parts his body.
Are you a young adult with cancer? Visit our friends at Stupid Cancer for resources and support.
Follow Vince on Twitter @GlassySunh8rs.
You are awesome! I can't imagine the strength physically, mentally and spiritually you have to endure cancer at such a young age. I'm sorry you had to go through that experience but wish you a healthy long life.Posted by: Kathleen | Dec 4, 2012 1:37:29 PM
Vince, thank you for sharing your story with us! Your bravery is inspiring and it is great to see a young person come out and take action against toxic chemicals.Posted by: Mack | Dec 4, 2012 9:25:42 AM
Vince, thank you for your candor and sharing your story. I can only imagine what your experience was like. We really need to get tough on toxic chemicals and do what we can to prevent cancer wherever possible. It's unconscionable that we would allow known carcinogens on to the market. Regardless of what may have caused your cancer, know that you are a brave and wonderful young man!Posted by: Joanne | Dec 4, 2012 6:10:33 AM