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Resilient Airman lives each day as a blessing

  • Published
  • By Stacey Geiger
  • 88th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
Diagnosed with cancer twice and having undergone a major heart surgery has not slowed down retired Master Sgt. Daryl McFadden one bit. On the contrary, it has been his daily reminder to be thankful and to live life to the fullest.

In 1999, at the age of 33, while on active-duty as a financial management and comptroller craftsman, McFadden noticed a lump on his neck. After a biopsy was conducted, he was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma, a cancer that starts in white blood cells called lymphocytes.

“Dealing with a cancer diagnosis was a tough cookie especially when you have a family history of cancer,” said McFadden. “My father had colon cancer and passed in 1991 and my grandfather had lung cancer and passed a couple years later. My world kind of crumbled around me telling a 33-year-old man you have cancer when you’re in the prime of your life was demoralizing.”

McFadden underwent radiation therapy to attack the para-aortic lymph nodes and spleen.

After his treatment, the cancer had successfully gone into remission.

Several years later in 2002 during an annual checkup, his physician discovered that the Hodgkins Lymphoma had returned. This time around, McFadden underwent a more intensive treatment of ABVD chemotherapy, a combination of chemotherapy drugs, and radiation.

“The odds were against me with my family history, but the one positive thing was that Hodgkins disease is the most curable type of cancer,” said McFadden. “And, at that time my daughter Amber was only four years old and I knew I had to stay positive because I had to be here for her.”

McFadden retired from the Air Force in 2010 and has since been cancer free and continues his to visit his physician for annual checkups.

When he thought he had conquered all the health scares for his life time, in January McFadden, now a financial management specialist at Air Force Materiel Command, was diagnosed with heart disease after a visit to his physician when he started to experience shortness of breath.

After a series of tests, the results showed that McFadden had obstruction of three vessel coronary arteries. His heart had 70-90 percent blockage.

McFadden said although he had a family history of heart disease, he would have never thought he would have had a problem. At 6-foot-4 and 250 pounds, he was in good shape and had been working out, lifting weights and even calling high school sports as an umpire/referee.

“After the tests, I learned I was a walking time bomb,” said McFadden. “My first thought was wow, I’m glad I kept following up on this because the shortness of breath was my only symptom when I exerted myself.

McFadden underwent a triple bypass surgery later that month and has since made his health his number one priority by continuing to exercise and changing his eating habits.

McFadden is thankful that being in a military community, he had a strong support group throughout his health issues.

“The outpouring of support for my family was tremendous,” McFadden said. “I have really been blessed to be surrounded by an abundance of family and friends who have gone above and beyond. Every visit, call and gift went a long way in uplifting my spirit and increased my healing each time I was sick. All I can say is I am blessed.”

After everything McFadden has been through, he says he is thankful and lives each day to the fullest.

“I live that way every day as each day is a blessing,” said McFadden. “1 Thessalonians 5:18 states ‘Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.’ I live every day like it’s my last because tomorrow isn’t promised. My three sisters always said I take after my mom who was both a peace maker and fighter, so my approach was every day is a blessing, live it like it’s your last and fight!”

Whether he is volunteering at homeless shelters or doing random acts of kindness like sending cookies to the lab at the Medical Center, McFadden said he is a firm believer of the more you give, the more you receive and is always paying it forward.

When asked if he had any words of advice?

“Don’t sweat the small stuff, in the big picture it’s all small,” said McFadden. “Live every day to the fullest. I am a walking testimony to ‘Live, Laugh and Love.’”