Heroes doing good everywhere

Norte’s Troy DeShano was only 21 years old when he received the news no one wants to hear — a cancer diagnosis.

“I was a newlywed at the time, just finishing up school, and so it was quite a situation for my wife and I to find ourselves in,” says Troy. “We had dreams and aspirations for what we hoped to do after college. We didn’t expect to get derailed.”

But derailed they were. Troy didn’t know it at the time, but he would face a years-long trial. It included chemotherapy, several surgeries, and a second cancer diagnosis at age 26.

“I reached a point where I had to accept that I might not make it to age 30,” he says. “It’s not an exciting place to find yourself, but it is a place where you can learn something, so that’s what I tried to do.”

“The suffering that happens to people when they’ve been diagnosed with cancer affects the whole family,” says Bill Couzens, a friend of Norte and founder of the cancer education organization Less Cancer. “It’s emotionally and financially devastating.”

Bill’s focus is educating the public, lawmakers, and health professionals about cancer prevention. He says more than half of all cancers are preventable — and although more people are surviving cancer these days, more people are also receiving the bad news. “We actually have more cancer, not less,” says Bill. “And that’s a headline people don’t like.”

According to Bill, most of the significant causes of preventable cancers — like smoking and obesity — have solutions. Less Cancer focuses on the early development of good, healthy habits.

“I love that Norte gets young people moving,” says Bill. “When you can get kids plugged into healthy decision-making early on, it will reduce their risk for a lot of things later down the road. So to me, the fact that Norte is out there doing what you guys are doing is heroic, and probably will lower the risk for cancer and other health issues.”

Troy DeShano has been cancer-free for 16 years. He credits his wife, Nöel, for helping him survive the challenges they faced early in their marriage. “She introduced me to healthy foods, and I took good care of myself,” he says. “I was able to endure many of those treatments because I was in pretty good health.”

These days, Troy is preparing for his first season of Norte’s youth programs. “All of the things that Norte hopes to influence — creating active, confident young people who are connected to each other and their communities — it’s all connected to our basic motto — ‘happy, healthy, strong.'”

On June 3, Less Cancer will kick off its annual, month-long Bike Ride America fundraising event in Traverse City, with a concert by The Steel Wheels.


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