Things might seem impossible until they’re actually done. That’s the story of Todd Blake, who was just a freshman at the University of Florida when he was diagnosed with stage IV Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, the most advanced stage of the rare blood cancer.
Not letting his diagnosis stop him from achieving his dreams of walking across the graduation stage, the young man continued to pursue his degree in business administration as he underwent 600 hours of chemotherapy and two bone marrow transplants, spending 63 nights in the hospital over five year period.
And not only did he accomplish his goal of graduating, he did it with the highest academic honors — a 4.0 GPA — and the honor of summa cum laude.
“It was really hard and there were a lot of times I wanted to give up and quit. I just kept pushing forward, thinking about that day when I would graduate and that accomplishment,” the now 23-year-old told the Today Show. “It was important to me to graduate and walk across the stage. It was symbolic.”
During his time in the hospital, the Jacksonville native married his longtime love, Maja, and also co-founded the Live for Today Foundation. Blake realized the need for the nonprofit after noticing there aren’t social programs such as Make-a-Wish that help cancer patients over the age of 18. About 70,000 Americans ages 15 to 39 are diagnosed with cancer each year, and as he told Today, “I want to help them.” He hopes that his new degree can help parlay into a full-time job at his nonprofit.
Blake is still battling his cancer but is still determined to keep up the fight. “I honestly don’t know how much more time I will have,” he said. “I’m trying to buy time until something comes up that can cure me. I hope the research can come up with new treatments every year so I can keep fighting.”
The key, he believes, is to remain positive: “If you give up on what your dreams are and your aspirations, you really just give up on living.”