Fighter of the month
Featured Fighter of the month
Previous Fighters of the month
- KateIn April, Kate had to get emergency surgery and have her appendix removed. She was also diagnosed with liver fibrosis as well as rhabdomyolysis. Although both are life threatening conditions, Kate isn't giving up, and she is accomplishing her dreams one day at a time. Kate is getting her degree in graphic arts technology, with a long-term long term goal to start her own guitar lesson school, with a focus to provide lessons specifically for people who experience jitteriness with their hands, since that's a barrier she faced for 14 years when trying to learn how to play. In addition, Kate enjoys helping others and is raising funds for the Iowa chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
- LukeLuke became a quadriplegic after diving into a lake and developing a spinal cord injury in July of 2007 at only 17 years old. Despite all the hardships and challenges that Luke has had to face over the past 15 years, he has still managed to achieve so much. Luke obtained a high school diploma, undergraduate and master's degrees in clinical counseling, and is now the co-owner of a counseling center in St. Cloud, MN. In March 2022, Luke underwent surgery to remove an infection that had been causing enormous amounts of pain. Despite a successful surgery, the recovery has been slow and prevents Luke from leaving bed but this has not deterred Luke from continuing to run the business and help individuals through their mental health journey via telehealth sessions. Luke is also on the board of directors for an organization that helps individuals with a variety of disabilities stay in their home, become more active in their community, and boost their overall daily life functioning. He hopes to continue to advocate for individuals to seek out mental health help if they are struggling and continue to advocate for the inclusion of individuals with disabilities in their community.
- LilyLily was diagnosed with Stage IV Kidney Cancer aged two. Her cancer had spread up her IVC and metastasized on her lungs. She suffered heart failure from toxins flooding her system when biopsies were taken to identify the cancer. The heart failure meant that the strongest chemo could not be used, so radiation therapy was urgently needed. The radiation therapy caused her spine to grow in a way that has never been seen before. In January 2021, she finally had surgery to help her spine, which involved breaking her back in three places, correcting deformed bone, and inserting bone grafts and metalwork. None of the pain medication worked – music was her main way of coping with the pain, especially “A Reason to Fight.” In August 2021, the metalwork had to be urgently removed, as it was threatening to break through the skin because her bones had bent it. Since, her spine has started to collapse, and further surgery lies ahead. Since Lily has so much experience within the hospital setting, she wanted to make a difference in hospital services, and is now on the Board of Governors at our local hospital, and is fighting for better treatment of children and teens with mental health issues. She is also fighting for the age of transition from Children-to-Adult Care within the hospital to be raised from 18 to 25. She recently shared her story for Patient Experience Week to highlight the need for medical students, doctors, nurses and surgeons to listen and diagnose children’s cancer quicker, so no one ever has to suffer the way that she has because of late diagnosis. Despite everything, she keeps smiling and supports anyone who needs it.
Amethyst was a teenager coping with the trauma of her father's death and subsequent custody issues when she experienced a series of bipolar episodes. It took some time for her to receive a proper diagnosis and, thus, an understanding of her own feelings. Amethyst channels her complex emotions in creative ways like drawing, fashion, and listening to music. When she went to her first Disturbed concert, she watched as thousands of people in the crowd raised their hands to show solidarity in living with mental illness and addiction. Amethyst realized in that moment that she is not alone in her experiences, and believes if everyone could see how many people are going through mental health challenges together, there would be more acceptance and support. Today, Amethyst feels inspired to go out and try to make a difference in other people’s lives.
Amethyst’s story is featured in Hiding in Plain Sight: Youth Mental Illness, a new documentary on the youth mental health crisis, premiering on PBS on June 27.
Growing up in a small town where talking about mental health was deeply stigmatized, Morgan felt she needed to hide her intense battle with anxiety and depression from others. At 19, she attempted to take her own life. Thankfully, she survived, and has taken those feelings and used them to fuel a fire, advocating for changes in mental health care and bringing awareness to the disparities that many communities face. Morgan has volunteered with the Trevor Project, National Suicide Hotline, Planned Parenthood, and many community resources to raise awareness for suicide prevention and increase accessibility to mental health resources. Her experiences led her to earn her doctorate degree in nursing, working in critical care with trauma victims and warriors that have survived suicide attempts. She plans to work in correctional nursing and community health as a nurse practitioner, further breaking down the stigma of mental health in America.
Morgan’s story is featured in Hiding in Plain Sight: Youth Mental Illness, a new documentary on the youth mental health crisis, premiering on PBS on June 27.
- LiamIn June of 2019, Liam was hospitalized for over a month with sudden, uncontrollable seizures, and he lost his ability to walk and talk. He left the hospital with a long list of medications, a diagnosis of mitochondrial disease, and a life expectancy of 3 months to 10 years. Liam proved his strength and pulled through his setbacks. He went through physical therapy to walk again and still has therapy for his speech. His disorder has resulted in developmental delays (autism), epilepsy, and ataxia (bad balance and coordination). Despite his problems, Liam always has a smile on his face and a fight in his eyes. His family is raising money & awareness for Liam and other kids like him at theliamfoundation.net
- RobinRobin remarried in 2015, but discovered her then-husband was mentally unstable, so she had to navigate that potentially dangerous situation. In 2020, Robin had rotator cuff surgery and had a port put in for pain meds, which led to her right lung partially collapsing and the discovery of a spot on her other lung. While recovering, she caught COVID-19 and was hospitalized. When she was released weeks later, an eye condition she developed 7 years ago came back, and she now has permanent scarring on her right cornea and blurred vision. Robin continues to have breathing issues, and the spot on her left lung grew, yet is still undiagnosed. Despite all of the obstacles thrown at her, she has triumphed over them all with confidence, kindness in her heart, and having faith in God.
Rob was diagnosed with Synovial Sarcoma, and after two surgeries and radiotherapy, Rob received the devastating news that his cancer was terminal. In February of 2021, following chemotherapy and a round of radiotherapy, Rob made the hardest decision of his life, which was to end his treatment. Rob’s mindset is that he wants to live every day for his son; give him the love and support he needs, create memories, and make sure he knows that his dad loved him with all his heart. 2021 turned out to be an amazing year for making memories with his family, but things have further progressed and Rob’s deterioration has become quite rapid. Rob has inspired so many people with his cancer journey through his very honest and candid vlogs which he posts on his Facebook group Zeds Blog - Walking With Sarcoma.
- KeylaKeyla has overcome many obstacles in her life. She has beaten cancer, and fought through depression and anxiety despite multiple suicide attempts. She has pushed through a major sickness, 20+ surgeries, injury, and “service hurdles” from her time in the army and law enforcement, such as being shot and stabbed while being in the line of duty. Keyla’s devotion to helping others, her fiancé Michael, and their kids have helped her have a more positive outlook on situations and life.
- EmberEmber was rear-ended by a speeding car in September 2009. Doctors discovered a herniated disc was impinging on the nerves and spinal cord. Surgery was performed, and although the surgery was a success, the damage to the nerves, muscles, and spinal cord was irreversible, leaving often debilitating pain. In 2013, the adjacent segment of disc at the level above where the surgery was performed showed herniation, and in 2014 showed compression of the spinal cord. The damage done to her body has trickled down to her back and hips, and often causes numbness, tingling, loss of sensation and unimaginable pain. She has required numerous stints in physical therapy, and spine and nerve procedures from her neck down to her hips. Despite the constant daily pain, pressure, and extensive restrictions from doctors, Ember teaches early childhood special education. She continues to try to live life every day, despite the barriers that come from having a spine/spinal cord injury even on days when nothing touches the pain.
- ScottAfter a series of tests in 2018, Scott discovered that he had a rare brain tumor. During that year, he went through surgeries, and after healing, went through seven weeks of intense radiation to try and kill the remaining portion of tumor that remained. In 2020, he found that his tumor was growing again. Scott went through an unsuccessful resection surgery, which led to chemotherapy treatments every 21 days, from March 2021 until July 2021. The chemo appears to have killed the tumor, but a new spot has showed on scans. They are currently looking at additional radiation and are waiting for results of additional testing. Since his last surgery, he has endured balance, memory, and some dexterity issues, along with the side effects of chemo. Scott perseveres and keeps a positive attitude.
- CarolCarol has battled through depression, cared for and lost her father to dementia, and recently lost her father-in-law to Covid-19. In addition, she has two children with Autism, one of which has ADHD and Tourette syndrome, and she fights to get them an accessible education as well as support for the wider world. Through it all, Carol has put her own battles aside and been a rock for her husband, children, and friends. Her friend stated that “no one fights harder” than Carol and believes she deserves all the respect she can get.
- RobertRobert grew up in an abusive household before he decided to join the military, where he served as a medic for 20.5 years. Robert saw things “no medic should have to” during his many deployments. Robert went through the loss of his best friend, a cheating ex, pain caused by medical problems, and faced many other demons. When Janet met him, she stated he was at a “really low place.” Robert has been slowly healing since moving in with Janet five years ago, and she is incredibly proud of how far he has come.
- ChadwickChadwick served with the army for three tours, and his time serving left him with PTSD, TBI and many other physical injuries, however, he continues to be there for his wife Shannon and support those around him. The couple were able to get VIP tickets to meet Disturbed in 2019, and Shannon noted it was the first time her husband realized what serving meant to others. Chad hearing a “thank you” from the band helped him embrace his time in the army, leaving him speechless for the first time.
- WendyWendy was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma of her spine, hip and lymph node in May 2020 after struggling with excruciating back pain for months. Wendy’s first thought after her diagnosis was of her children, as she grew up without a parental figure from the age of 15 and didn’t want that life for them. Wendy decided to fight. She undergoes injectable and oral chemotherapy treatments in an attempt to manage the incurable cancer. Wendy is a devoted pet parent, a cherished friend, loving sister, a compassionate veterinary technician and a fierce advocate for those who do not have a voice. Wendy’s hair has grown back, and she is walking and doing things that she used to enjoy before she was diagnosed.
- KatieKatie was nominated by her mother for coming forward as a victim of sexual assault, which saved her and in return, saved other children as well. It took two and a half years for justice to be served. Katie had PTSD from the experience, and drawing and music were her primary outlets. In the same timeframe, Katie also lost her grandmother, who she was very close to. Currently, Katie’s good days outweigh the bad, and she hopes that her story will give other kids the strength and courage to stand up against their predator. We’re honored to have learned that “Hold On To Memories” got Katie through this rough patch in her life.
- HannahHannah has suffered from depression, eating disorders, borderline personality disorder and has almost given up a few times by attempting to take her own life. AJ nominated Hannah because he's proud of her for her most recent recovery. Hannah has been in and out of multiple institutions, however she is currently doing well and is working hard to stay healthy in her new group home.
- KeithKeith joined the Army National Guard at 17 and eventually shifted his focus to become a Navy Corpsman. He was medically discharged from the Navy in the early ‘90s. He returned home with a version of early-onset Parkinson’s (triggered by chemical exposure) and has been managing that as well as a unique version of type 1 diabetes and other issues for over a decade. Every day is painful, but Keith doesn’t let it bring him down; he is known by everyone as the funniest person in town, and is always there to lend a hand to anyone who needs it. Ten Thousand Fists in the air for Keith’s service & great attitude through it all!
- LucusWhen Lucus was 3 months old, he was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis, and according to his doctors, one of the highest readings they had ever seen. Since then, he has been in and out of the hospital for routine treatments, has at-home treatments 2-4x a day, and is prescribed 30-40 pills a day. Lucus is now 9 year old and continues his fight; every day is different and new health complications arise, however, he doesn’t let it bring him down. Follow Lucus’ updates here
- MaryMary was nominated by one of her daughters after losing her youngest daughter Sarah due to health complications. Mary is praised for her strength and being a tireless caregiver to her three other children, while working through her own grief & seeking help when she needed it. Mary keeps her daughter Sarah’s memory alive, and “Hold On to Memories” is a special song to the whole family.
- DawnDawn’s husband suffers from a rare muscular degeneration disease and developed a rare form of cancer last year. His treatments have caused burns in his mouth, which led to weakness and weight loss. Dawn missed a lot of work to be with him, and despite the tough circumstances, she has never lost her positivity and kindness.
- ArturA serious car accident put Artur in a coma, and upon waking up, he had to learn to live with new limitations. Artur lost his left leg and suffered serious injuries to his right leg, spine and wrist. Artur and his wife spent six weeks in the hospital after the accident, and despite being wheelchair-bound at the moment, he is doing exercises constantly to increase his chances of walking again, and he is doing what he can to stay positive.
- LeesaLeesa is the owner of a small-town cat rescue shelter which she started herself. The shelter provides care to over 100 street cats, feral kittens and abandoned felines. Leesa puts so much care and attention into the lives of the cats she takes care of, all while living with a life-long chronic illness, which required her to have a triple bypass surgery at the age of 51 this past summer. Despite these complications, Leesa continues to be someone who will always jump to help others, but will never ask for help herself.
- ZoeJaneZoeJane, 10, has been battling DIPG since December 2017, which is a rare form of inoperable brain tumor with a typical prognosis of 6-9 months to live. She has been fighting for the past 3 years, traveling every few weeks with her mom and dad from Salt Lake City to New York for treatments and clinical trials. Despite her diagnosis, ZoeJane has continued to go to school, dance and act, and continue to be her spunky, sassy self. Her family wants to raise awareness of this disease in order to help ZoeJane, and the other children and their families who have struggled with it.
- JennJenn was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy type 3 (SMA3) at three years old, grew up in an abusive and neglectful home, experienced sexual abuse by a family friend, and was emancipated by 13. She experienced drug addiction and was able to overcome it on her own. She recently completed her bachelor’s degree to be a drug counselor and social worker, and is now working full time helping others.
- ReeceReece is a 22-year-old rapper and former sports coach who uses his music to communicate life as a person with dwarfism. Reece and his friend once posted a collab/brainstorm about lyrics on Instagram, and he received nasty comments and was teased. However, it led to something positive – Reece’s first YouTube video racked up 250K views. He has always been proud of who he is, leaves the unkind behind, and moves forward with his dreams and networking with the younger generation.
- AprilApril is a veteran who served 15 months in Afghanistan and now suffers from PTSD and severe migraines. April and her husband faced challenges when starting a family, and were able to adopt twin boys, but within a few months it became apparent that both boys had special needs. April was finally able to have two girls of her own, and is now raising four children, while advocating for soldiers' rights to medical marijuana use.
- Omar EmilianoOmar Emiliano was a Federal Officer with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection in New York City for 17 years. He lost his life to COVID-19 on May 4, after being exposed on the job. He was a Disturbed One from the beginning. He was a humanist, an activist for all, and a man whose fundamental principles were rooted in human decency. While Omar was in ICU fighting COVID-19 for over 30 days, he continued to encourage others experiencing depression, fear, and despair. He pushed us to fight the virus, and quietly prepared for his transition. Omar E. risked and lost his life to serve and protect.
- JofJof has battled anxiety all of his life and turned to drugs and alcohol to silence his mind. His daughter was born with Canavan disease and the special care she needed for her disability gave Jof #AReasonToFight. Jof gave up drugs and alcohol and he has been clean for nine years. While he still battles with anxiety, he has been a tower of strength and support for his daughter and his wife.
- AbraAbra was in a mentally abusive relationship for years and was diagnosed with PTSD from the abuse she endured. She also deals with depression, anxiety and Bipolar II Disorder. Eleven years ago, she took on and raised two children from a friend, and will officially adopt them this year. Despite everything, Abra loves to help people and make people laugh. She was at a low point and had been thinking a lot about death, but after seeing Disturbed perform in St. Louis, she realized she wasn’t alone in this fight. Abra keeps a smile on her face no matter what is thrown her way, and always extends a helping hand.”
- TejaTeja was paralyzed by cancer on her spine at the age of one and underwent multiple surgeries and chemotherapy. Doctors said she would either be paralyzed for life or die, but she beat cancer and learned how to walk again in physical therapy. Teja has dealt with depression and anxiety as a teenager, but “Disturbed gives her a reason to fight.”
- QuadenNine-year-old Quaden has faced discrimination not only due to having dwarfism, but because of his aboriginal ancestry. Growing up, Quaden had to undergo multiple surgeries in order to improve breathing, sleeping, and to prevent neurological damage. The bullying in school and online has been overwhelming for him and his family. Learn more about Quaden’s story HERE, and contribute to his GoFundMe HERE to support anti-bullying and anti-abuse charities.
- Marc-ThomasFive-year-old Marc-Thomas underwent chemotherapy and an 8-hour brain surgery following the discovery of a tumor in the center lower portion of his brain. He will still have to go through more chemo and radiation to ensure he is cancer-free. Through all the adversity, he has continued to smile and stay positive!
- NicoNico was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder at age 4. He spends hours each week in therapies and working with specialists, both in and out of school. No matter how discouraging or frustrating things get, he finds a way to fight. Nico started working with the American Special Hockey Association and his perseverance and determination shines through more than ever on the ice.
- FrancescaIn 2016, Francesca was involved in a horrible accident, which involved a car crashing into the motorcycle that her boyfriend was driving while she was sitting on the back. Francesca survived and was in a coma for 10 days, however, her boyfriend passed away. Francesca had most of her left leg amputated. She now uses a prosthetic and can do most of the things she could before, but still puts up a daily fight to return to normalcy.
Jennifer has struggled from depression her whole life, stemming from an abusive upbringing. The same day Jennifer found out she was pregnant, she was diagnosed with cancer, and chose to not get any treatment until her daughter was born. Jennifer has been cancer-free since 2004. For the past year, Jennifer has been a caretaker to her aunt who has suffered two strokes and, and as of early August will be helping her father’s long-term recovery from quintuple bypass heart surgery. Between taking care of her aunt and her father, Jennifer couldn’t be with her daughter on her 16th Birthday.
On Calvin’s second round of deployment as a Navy corpsman, he was treating a civilian around his troops when a building collapsed on top of him. He was left partially paralyzed and sent home, only to find that his wife left him. Calvin turned to drugs and alcohol to cope with his depression and PTSD, and ultimately realized that this wasn’t the answer and began his fight. With many surgeries, Calvin is no longer paralyzed, and has overcome his addiction. Calvin always puts others above himself, and even sold his Disturbed meet-and-greet to provide for his children.
This Friday, Cindy is about to undergo 9 weeks of chemotherapy to combat cancer that was discovered this past April. The cancer formed around a liver transplant she had in April 2017, which was necessary after being diagnosed with PSC (primary sclerosing cholangitis). She was given only one month to live prior to the transplant. Cindy and her husband Joe generously donated to Sandi’s dog’s bone cancer treatment, which is how they all met.
NOMINATE A FIGHTER OF THE MONTH
- Option 1: Post a photo of the person who you are nominating on Instagram with the hashtag #FighterOfTheMonth, and tell us why that person should be chosen in the caption.
- Option 2: Record a video no longer than 1 minute and post it on Instagram with the hashtag #FighterOfTheMonth, and tell us why that person should be chosen.