Young survives cancer to compete in rodeo

RENO - Adam Young knew there was something terribly wrong that day in 2004. He was having trouble breathing and was extremely uncomfortable.

One of his roommates, a medical student at the University of Nevada, did a quick check on him, but said he couldn't feel anything on one side and urged Young to go to the hospital the next day.

"I went to the doctor, and they told me I had a collapsed lung," said the 26-year-old Young, who competed in team roping with Matthew Hussman of Topaz Lake Thursday night at the 87th annual Reno Rodeo at the Reno Livestock Event Center. "They told me that normally they would rush me in an ambulance (to the hospital), but they told me since I was able to walk in to go on over. They poked and prodded, and couldn't tell me anything else right away."

Unfortunately, a collapsed lung wasn't the only thing that was ailing Young.

Further tests revealed that there was a mass in his lungs. A second biopsy revealed that Young had contracted a rare form of lung cancer.

"I didn't even know I had it," said Young, who spent three weeks in the hospital. "It's so rare that only about 100 cases a year are discovered."

From July of 2004 to December of 2004, Young went through chemotherapy, and lost all of his hair. In November of 2004, he had surgery to remove half of his lung. Two more rounds of chemotherapy followed.

"Oh yeah, I didn't have any hair on my body," said Young, who lives in Jacks Valley. "It's still trying to come back right now. When it goes, it goes. They can predict pretty much to the day when it's going to fall off.

"My mother (Dorothy) was with me the entire time. You have to have a caregiver when you're out of the hospital. My friends would call me two or three times a day. We really didn't have much to talk about. We would B.S. about anything and everything."

The cancer returned in February of last year. Young and his mother traveled to Portland, Ore., to have more chemotherapy leading to the first of two stem-cell treatments by the same doctor, Dr. Hayes-Lattin, that operated on cycling star Lance Armstrong.

The stem-cell treatments were needed because his white blood cell count was virtually non-existent as a result of all the chemotherapy.

A month after he arrived in Oregon, Young and his mother heard the words they both dreaded ever since he was told he had cancer. He was going to die. Young said he had a hunch something was wrong because when he went to the office the nurses and doctors wouldn't even look at him.

"The doctor (Dr. Nichols) walked into the office and said he had bad news," Young said, recounting the events of March 21, 2005 like it was only yesterday. "He said the chemo wasn't working. He said I was going to die.

"I asked him if it was if it was going to be quick. He said once it takes over, it's pretty rapid. What do you say to that?"

Young made some phone calls to friends and had a lot of beer.

"It upsets me when I see people wasting their lives," he said. "When you are actually staring death in the face, it's a really bad feeling."

The next day, Young got a new lease on life, however.

The doctor decided to do another blood test, and overnight, he saw some progress, enough that he re-admitted Young to the hospital to start chemotherapy again immediately.

It was one year last night that Young received the second stem-cell transplant, and obviously he hopes that he's turned the corner.

Young, who won state twice while at Douglas High and was a reserve national champion, finally was strong enough to return to roping in May. He's competed in two rodeos, taking a second and fourth.

Young said he feels good, and he's happy to be back roping. It's certainly hard to give up something he's so good at and had been doing for so long.

"I go for check-ups every month," Young said. 'I don't have to go back until August. I just try to take one day at a time, and I don't try to get too far ahead of myself. Right now, I'm just trying to live life."

Young also was third in the nation when he attended Idaho State. He finished up at Nevada, graduating in 2004 with a double major of marketing and finance.

What does the future hold for Young?

"It depends," he said. "I always wanted to rope a lot more than I did. I'd like to go (full-time) the rest of the summer and into the fall. We'll see where we go from there.

"I've learned not to get ahead of myself. You can't think about six months in advance. You can't think about a year. You just have to think about the day you are going through and nothing else."

Not easy to do when you were as active as Young, but he's certainly giving it the old college try.


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