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Alex Kip: The Final Chapter (Or Maybe Not)

Category Archives: Alex Kip

Alex Kip: The Final Chapter (Or Maybe Not)

This is Chapter 20 in the story of Alex Kip and his battle with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (Type B) cancer … which is now in remission!

This will be the last chapter, as Alex moved to New York City on Saturday to pursue his dream of being an actor – a dream delayed for more than a year due to his lymphoma. Then again, with cell phones … and email … and texts … and Skype … and Words With Friends, what the heck; I think I’m going to stay in touch and keep writing about Alex.

Sorry dude, it looks like you’re stuck with me a little longer!

Or, as we joked the other day, I’ll keep writing about Alex until he gets so big and famous he stops taking my calls and answering my emails and has his team of attorneys send me a cease-and-desist order!

Just like that darn Justin Timberlake did a few years ago!

**

Chemo is long, boring ... and kicks your butt

I first met Alex, 23, at the time, in December 2010. He had been diagnosed with cancer in April, and graduated from the University of Michigan’s prestigious school of theatre and drama the following month. While his classmates moved on to New York to follow their Broadway dreams, Alex came home to Gahanna for chemo treatments.

Over the next several months, things seemed to get better, and Alex was even able to ride in Pelotonia 10. And then things got worse – a lot worse, and his doctor gave Alex only a 30 percent chance after his tumor stubbornly resisted all the chemo and refused to shrink.

This was a tough time for Alex, and for his parents (Cindy and Nick) and sister (Liz) and the hundreds of relatives and friends who loved and supported him.  And it was a tough time for me, which I hope doesn’t sound too self-centered, as Alex was the one whose life was on the line.

But the thing of it was, when we first met and talked about me following him through and writing about his chemo and stem cell transplant, everything was on track and Alex’s odds of recovery were quite high. And that’s what I planned to write about: the marvels of modern medicine and one young man’s courageous battle to beat cancer. The fact that he could die from this was something I hadn’t considered, which in retrospect was pretty naïve. Then again, I don’t think Alex considered this possibility either.

Here's Dr. Penza showing Alex his tumor

And then, suddenly, Alex was faced with the possibility of dying – and I was faced with the possibility of having to write about him dying.

Journalists (and even bloggers, I guess) aren’t supposed to get close to their subjects. But it was hard not to in this case. Alex is easy to like. He’s confident, but far from cocky, takes his acting/singing seriously, but can joke about himself and is fun to hang out with. He’s easy going and kind, open minded, spiritual – but not in an overbearing way – and has a sneaky sense of humor. He’s up for anything and everything, including skydiving, which he did a few weeks ago.

“You don’t really have time to be scared,” he said of skydiving. “You’re strapped on to someone and they tell you 1 … 2 … 3 … and push you out. Even if you don’t want to go, you have no choice.”

This sounds a lot like battling cancer.

In February, after some massive doses of chemo, Alex finally had his stem cell transplant, which was pretty much his last hope. He was sick as hell for the next few weeks and puked constantly, which is the norm after a stem cell transplant.

You have to keep fighting...

And then things started getting better … and better, and finally, after a series of radiation treatments, his doctor – Sam Penza at The James – gave Alex the good news: his tumor had shrunk into oblivion.

He was – and remains –  in remission.

**

“The biggest thing I learned is we don’t really have control over our lives like we think we do,” Alex said. “There’s this saying that you have plans … and then God laughs, and I sure learned that.”

He also learned to fight and then fight some more.

“I learned the harder you fight, the better your outcome. If you’re depressed and upset all the time, your body will constantly be in a state of stress and anxiety, which is going to make your treatments and the process harder and the time go slower.”

I had the chance to watch Alex put these words into action. And I think I was around him enough to know he wasn’t putting up a brave front for my benefit, knowing I’d be writing about him and people would read these posts. The courage was real, and quite extraordinary and amazing to watch. And it’s hard not to wonder how you would handle a similar situation – and then say a quick prayer and knock on wood that you’ll never have to find out.

After the stem cell transplant came the radiation treatments

And yet, despite all the courage, there were times when Alex had his doubts and fears – and wondered: Why is this happening to me? And there were a few times when he was grumpy and pissed off, which is also understandable.

“That 30 percent chance thing really scared me at first. But I never let it completely get to me and never, ever thought this was going to kill me and I was going to die from this.”

**

Right before he left for New York, Alex had a gig as a model in Fashion Week Columbus – and got to walk the runway. He’s an actor, not a model, but was able to land the job.

“I’m an actor, so I acted like a runway model,” Alex said of the audition, adding that getting the runway-model-walk thing down was the hardest part. “I didn’t know what I was doing, but I just walked with a lot of attitude and confidence.”

Confidence in his acting abilities is one thing Alex has gained.

Alex got a lot of love and support from his family: his sister, Liz, and his parents, Nick and Cindy

“When I used to audition, I was nervous and intimidated and was looking around the room, comparing myself to everyone else and saying I’m not right for this. But after going through this, I feel like I can do anything and I’m not intimidated any more.”

If he gets the part great, if not, there’s always another audition.

**

Sometimes you do get a second act in life, and Alex is determined to make the most of his, on and off the stage and screen.

“I didn’t go through all this to have a meaningless and pointless existence,” he said.

Alex has already hooked up with a couple of cancer-connected nonprofits in New York. He wants very much to work with teenagers and young adults with cancer going through what he went through. And, he promises, he’ll be back to ride in Pelotonia 12. He brought his bike with him to New York.

And Alex is going to throw himself into acting with all the energy and determination he can muster, which is off the charts.

Hey look - he has hair ... and rode 102 miles to Athens. Take that cancer!

“It’s always been what I relate to and what I feel strongly about … And I feel like if I gave up on that dream, it would be like cancer took away a part of me I didn’t want it to take away and I’m not going to let that happen.”

**

If you haven’t read the first 19 chapter about Alex, and would like to, here’s a link to each chapter…

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19