After Nathan Tirey was diagnosed with blood cancer late last year, he hit the ground — literally.
Since the beginning of 2020, the Army veteran has done an average of 484 pushups a day to complete 176,200 as he battles chronic lymphocytic lymphoma. Tirey chose that number for a specific purpose — an average of 176,200 people are diagnosed with the disease every year, and he felt it would be the perfect way to honor them and raise awareness around the rare form of cancer.
"The goal is to bring awareness to blood cancer, and the number of pushups really drives home just how many people are affected," Tirey told the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center-James Cancer Hospital & Solove Research Institute, where he is participating in a clinical trial.
"I have cancer, but I’m not going to let that change who I am," he said. "I’m going to put one foot in front of the other and fight it every day, and the pushups are symbolic of that."
According to Mayo Clinic, people diagnosed with CLL will typically experience symptoms such as enlarged lymph nodes, fatigue, fever and pain in the upper portion of their abdomen. Many can also go through night sweats, weight loss and frequent urination.
Tirey — who was 41 when he began the challenge — uploaded dozens of videos of his exercise regimen to the YouTube channel, Pushing Through Cancer.
"This isn’t something where I’m splicing together a bunch of clips. It is one continuous video because I want it to be authentic and show the real struggle of cancer treatment," Tirey told OSUCCC–James.
Dr. Jennifer Woyach, an oncologist who is facilitating Tirey's treatment, said the medication he's being administered, Ibrutinib, shows promise but is not without its disadvantages.
"We’ve shown in previous studies that [Ibrutinib] is very effective, but taking it indefinitely to control CLL is very expensive and can have uncomfortable side effects," she said, according to the hospital.
"It’s amazing to be able to tell my patients that we’re going to find something that works well for them, and it’s going to allow them to get back to their normal lives, whether that’s going to work, babysitting their grandchild or taking that vacation they’ve been planning," Woyach continued.
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Earlier this month, Tirey completed his final 150 pushups to reach 176,200 and had his two children finish it beside him.
"Hopefully others can use this to fuel their own fire," Tirey told the hospital, "because I truly believe exercise will always make you feel better, even on days when it’s hard."