Loyal, strong, determined, resilient, compassionate, honest, and brave. Charles Frederick Porter II was born in Oxford England to an English mother with Jewish roots and an African American father from Annapolis, Md. Charles thrived in sports as well as academia and eventually received a full athletic scholarship to Duke University. Almost a decade later, in 2010, he was diagnosed with stage IV Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. In May of 2015, he had a relapse but it was caught at an early stage.
This is part one of Charles’ cancer journey, “A Dose of Diagnoses.
In 2002 I graduated from Duke University. As a reward for this accomplishment, one that had yet to be accomplished by any other on one side of my family, I traveled to Sweden and Denmark
for a month. It brings tears to my eyes at a mere glance back at the memory of that trip. Water everywhere when in Stockholm with cobblestone streets and brightly color painted homes lining
the marinas. Open green pastures are endless as I took the train from Stockholm, Sweden to Copenhagen, Denmark. Met there with grand sculptures and buildings of artwork, we found our
way to Christiania. I chuckle at the thought of my two buddies and I trying to make our way out of the park.
Before I left Scandinavia I saw Will Smith in Stockholm perform while promoting the second installment of Men In Black. I took it as a sign of inspiration. As soon as I returned to the United States, I got a job in my neighborhood stocking shelves at Pier 1 Imports. In two months I saved enough money for a flight and the first month’s rent and was off to Los Angeles. I was
twenty three years old and in my mind, invincible.
When I was twenty eight years old I was in the best shape of my life. During this time in my life I was very productive. I graced the pages of Italian Men’s Vogue, with a two-page write up to
boot. The previous year I made guest appearances on three of television’s hottest network shows and I was certainly starting to feel that I was making a mark in the industry that I had
spent the last six years trying to break into. All signs were pointing in the right direction. I could finally say that hard work pays off and I was ready to shout it from the mountain tops. I never would have thought that one word could turn my life upside down and have me screaming from a mountain that I never even knew existed.
The word alone has wreaked havoc among millions of people and their loved ones. On April 8th, 2010 I found myself front and center with this disease. Stage four Hodgkin’s Lymphoma was the diagnosis. I just turned thirty one and my life has never been the same ever since.
Before I get into the details and turn any past, current, or future cancer fighter away, this is not a sad story. This is, however, a real life story about a boy who turned into a man while battling for his life and in turn used this disease to ignite a passion for living. If anyone were to ask you, do you want to live, the majority of us would, without hesitation, answer yes.
But what is living?
Would it be too much to ask of you to take a minute or two alone and ask yourself, is living simply breathing and surviving. Are we too busy in life to give ourselves the honor of introspective thought? To me, living was about helping others achieve their greatest dreams by accomplishing mine. By becoming so great at something that I could reach millions of people and help them to do what they wanted to do in life whether by inspiring them to press on during adverse times or by assisting financially. For a while I thought that being a professional athlete was going to help me to accomplish this mission. I played sports all throughout grade school and eventually landed a full athletic scholarship to Duke University. As a two-year starter and a bonafide athlete and playmaker, I may have had a chance to continue professionally.
After my final season at Duke, I had a small back surgery and hung up my cleats. But along with the scars of the playing fields I also took with me a degree in Cultural Anthropology. Little did I know at the time that the study of man, woman and culture would have a significant impact on my artistry and development as a writer, an actor and most importantly a human.
I’m not sure if it was the success in athletics or the hype behind a Duke degree, but I truly felt that the world was my oyster and now all I had to do was to decide what city I wanted to live in and conquer. As a product of the prep boarding school system I was not shy about moving to a city that I was not familiar. I was also not scared of being far from family and friends. Literally the world was up for grabs and I was excited to plant a temporary flag somewhere cool.
A last ditch decision stirred up a thirst for entertainment and I narrowed my choices to New York and Los Angeles. I knew New York as my mother and brother lived there throughout my high school years at Lawrenceville Prep. in New Jersey. Little Italy on Grand and Mott, is where my mother, brother and occasionally I resided. I also knew the brutal northeast coast winters and I wanted to trade those in for a world where there was only one season, sunny with a light breeze. Is that a season?
It is here, as L.A. just welcomes you with that warm weather and laid back vibe. It puts you in its trance and seduces you from all angles. Whatever you want you can have. Commonly, all that access becomes excess. Too much of anything is never a good thing. Balance, patience, gratitude, humbleness, and love is what I needed. I was brought up on the values of honesty, kindness and respect thanks to Rumsey Hall and loving parents. To be the best is what I was seeking but life was happening at all too fast a pace for me to truly hone in on what those characteristics truly meant. I needed time to slow down so my thoughts and my actions were on one accord. I also needed time to reflect on my life so that I could learn from mistakes and turn them into lessons. My actions were not reflecting the man that I envisioned myself being and something had to give.
I once read that, “To do great things, we need to be able to endure tragedy and setbacks.” I can finally admit that battling Stage IV Hodgkin’s Lymphoma taught me all about balance, patience, gratitude, humbleness and love like nothing else I’ve personally experienced as of yet in my 37 years of life.
What would you change about your life if you were told that you had cancer?