LouCity fan Joey Cecil is in the fight of his life with much support along the way.
BY KEVIN KERNEN | PHOTOS BY JONATHAN LINTNER OF LOUISVILLE CITY FC
For most 27-year-olds, life is relatively simple. It’s no different for Joey Cecil – a financial educator and Trinity-Bellarmine-Louisville grad – who also has a love for sports.
He also happens to have terminal brain cancer.
Back in late March, after experiencing recurring migraines followed by bouts of vomiting, Joey visited three different immediate care centers. They were ready to chalk his symptoms up to a simple sinus infection, but after a couple weeks of his symptoms not diminishing, he went to the emergency room. There, a CT scan was ordered and after medical professionals spotted a growth that was causing the pressure, Joey was immediately admitted, and neurosurgeon Dr. David Sun went to work removing the growth.
Dr. Sun was confident he removed the majority of the tumor in question, but it’s impossible to completely remove the affected area without risking loss of various functions of the brain, so there are inevitably a few cancerous cells remaining. So, a sample of the growth was sent for testing. Joey and his family faced a tense two-week period before the results came back: It was a Grade IV glioblastoma, the most advanced phase of the relatively uncommon disease.
The numbers associated with that prognosis do not make for light reading: While it generally affects older patients, most people survive somewhere between 14 months and 3 years, with just 10 percent of people affected living beyond five years, according to the American Brain Tumor Association.
But Joey isn’t interested in the numbers.
He lives by a motto of “defying the stats” and he does something every day that puts himself a step ahead of the disease, be it improving his diet or taking a walk. He’s also an avid bowler (he has more than a dozen perfect games and a state championship to his name) and Louisville City FC fan.
Joey has taken a hiatus from his work at the Community Services department of Louisville Metro Government – where he served as a financial educator for low- and middle-income families – while he gets adjusted to his medication. He has used the time to both reconnect with friends and spread awareness about glioblastoma, but he is eager to return to his work, something he aims to do by October.
When you see Joey, the only indication he has a terminal disease would be the Optune device he wears around his head most days, a component of his treatment that’s used in concert with chemotherapy.
Battling any disease can be expensive. So, Joey’s friends made t-shirts bearing the words “Love My Joey” to sell with proceeds going toward medical costs. Additionally, the Louisville Coopers – LouCity’s supporters – have jumped on board showing support by way of banners, promotion of the t-shirts and much more.
“I love to see the shirts out there, but what I’m (most concerned with) is people learning about this disease,” Joey said.
Since glioblastoma is terminal, his student loan company has forgiven his loans from his history and political science bachelor degrees from Bellarmine and public administration master’s from the University of Louisville. He also has an open invitation to attend Louisville City training sessions, which was extended to him by Coach James O’Connor.
Joey’s relationship with the team started back in 2015, when he worked as a game-day intern to help his Trinity classmate and then-communication director Steve Peake. During Joey’s recovery at Norton Hospital, the team sent Joey a get-well-soon video, and he has had a personal relationship with many of the players since.
“(I have been happy) to see everyone in my life who wants to step up and help out,” Joey said.
Despite facing a daunting outcome, “(I am) happy that it’s happened,” he admitted. “I wouldn’t change anything.”
Instead of looking down the road, Joey takes things a day at a time. He’s talked to other people with the same diagnosis and found that “a lot of people with these diagnoses get bogged down, looking too far down the road instead of just doing what they can control.”
Like most anyone, Joey has a bucket list of sports – he’d like to visit London to see Chelsea play and take in the Masters, among other goals – but he’s not allowing himself to consider “I might not be here next year. … You cannot live in fear of (cancer), you live in spite of it.”
For more information on Joey’s battle, visit www.LoveMyJoey.com.