In 2002, Tony McEachern competed in the Raid Gauloises in Vietnam, a grueling 621-mile endurance race. One year later, in the midst of seemingly peak physical health, he was diagnosed with a Grade III Anaplastic Astrocytoma and was given two years to live. But Tony took that diagnosis and battled through it as he did that extreme race. He fought through the pain and the desire to give up and endured. It’s been 10 years since his diagnosis and Tony is still here to share his story of fighting cancer.
The battle was not won easily. Tony endured five neurosurgeries, two years of radiation, four years of chemotherapy, and several experimental treatments. He sacrificed hair and peripheral vision to chemotherapy and radiation but never gave up.
Although he credits much of his survival to The Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center at Duke, Tony believes there were many people outside of the medical field who contributed to his recovery. He had the constant love and support from family and friends and also other cancer survivors he met along the way.
The relationships with others going through cancer are what led Tony to found Team Tony Foundation. He knew it was important to continue that exchange of comfort and knowledge, and for years, it was an informal service. People living in the Sarasota area knew or had heard of Tony, but in 2007 his philanthropy became more organized and mainstream. Tony walked across the state of Florida to raise money and awareness for cancer.
It wasn’t enough; Tony wanted to do more to impact those battling cancer. So, in 2009, he walked from Durham, NC back home to Sarasota, Florida and raised $57,000 for Duke University to fund brain cancer research. His vision of creating a cancer support organization became a reality in 2010 when the Team Tony Cancer Foundation was officially launched.
With that launch, one of Tony’s personal goals was accomplished and a much bigger mission was created: to pair a cancer survivor with a cancer fighter so those diagnosed with cancer get the support they need.