Chris Newman: Every Opportunity Is Crucial

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The D10 Athlete Profile explores what brings competitors to The D10 playing field... and what they bring away from it. 

Chris Newman
USI Insurance Services
Vice President, Employee Benefits
The D10 Los Angeles
Fundraising goal: $20,000 (Team Mela No Mas!)
2019 Marquee event: Pull-Ups

When first-year D10 athlete Chris Newman stared down late-stage Melanoma in 2018, it wasn’t the first time cancer impacted his life. Spearheading team Mela No Mas at this month's D10 Los Angeles (with D10 NYC stalwart/"cousin-in-law" Casey Gough rounding out the roster), Chris is fired up for his first opportunity to compete D10 style, and we’re honored to share his story here.   

What is your primary motivator for competing in The D10 events?
Cancer has had a huge impact on my life. I had a close childhood friend pass away when we were just nine years old, which impacted me greatly. Then in March of 2018, at age 29, I was diagnosed with late-stage Melanoma. I understand the importance of raising money and awareness for cancer research and early detection firsthand. Every opportunity is crucial.

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That diagnosis must have been incredibly unsettling. 
You are correct. I had a mole on the side of my face get misdiagnosed in 2016. I began noticing swollen lymph nodes behind my ear. I kept questioning the doctors telling me I was “probably” OK simply because I was feeling fine. My blood work was great and didn’t show any effects of cancer. But I wasn’t fully convinced.

I finally met with an ENT in March of 2018, and he suggested I get a FNA biopsy. I am so glad I did, because two lymph nodes came back as positive for Melanoma. A friend I play hockey with in LA, Phil Keith, helped me get into see Dr. Steven O’Day at the John Wayne Cancer Center in Santa Monica. From my PET scan, Dr. O’Day identified Melanoma outside my lungs and kidney, so it was spreading. Thank god we saw him! 

I started immunotherapy on April 23, 2018, and repeated it every three weeks for four rounds. I committed to myself that I’d work out every night on the day of my treatment. I didn’t miss a beat and trained harder than ever. I told myself each workout, each extra rep was an opportunity to beat cancer.

Sounds corny, but that was my mindset. I had incredible support from both my family and my wife’s family back in Minnesota. The two-year marker following treatment is a huge milestone. That will be in 2020, but all my quarterly scans have come back clean. We are thrilled.  

A quote ascribed to Confucius states, "We have two lives, and the second begins when we realize we only have one." How did this experience alter your perspective?
During treatment, I read a ton of books on perspective. My wife and I have always loved to travel. I’ve always been a guy who lives life in the moment. Now as a survivor, I am even more of a “yes” man to new opportunities and experiences, as you only get one life! My wife and I have been married three years, and we try to take a “honeymoon” every year--at least one.  

How did you get involved in The D10?
I’ve donated the past couple years to my cousin-in-law (that’s a thing), Casey Gough’s team in NY. Following The D10 NYC event this year, I commented “I’d totally do that if it was in LA.” My phone couldn’t have rung faster -- it was Casey, saying, “Buddy, you are in luck!” 
(Donate to Chris's athlete fundraising page.)   

How much of your motivation for participating in The D10 stems from its charitable mission?
With so many great organizations to pursue, directly benefiting cancer research is the sole reason I chose The D10… so pretty much all my motivation!      

How has The D10 been different from your collegiate or high school sports experiences in terms of training and motivation?
I have always been competitive in sports. I played hockey, football, and tennis in high school, and was big into intramurals in college at the University of Minnesota. But mostly my motivation has been the social aspect of team sports. The D10 has brought a whole new meaning to my training. It feels good to hit the gym to better myself and know there is a bigger mission behind my goals. While I still love a beer with the boys in the locker room after a skate, The D10 training is very fulfilling.

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Have you made new lasting friendships, or strengthened your professional network, as a result of your D10 experience?
An old friend and one of my D10 Teammates, Brett Beebe, brought my wife (Sophie) and me dinner the first night I was diagnosed with Melanoma. That kindness will never be forgotten. Brett’s mother passed five years ago to breast cancer. It was a natural fit for us to join forces over this cause, and our relationship is stronger than ever because of it. I’m also always looking to grow professionally. I work as an insurance consultant and always aim to help my clients understand the importance of wellness and preventive healthcare.

I am hopeful my experience with The D10 will make lasting connections with people, and that they can learn from my story. I am very excited to participate in the first of many D10s in Los Angeles.

Support Chris and his teammates in their fight against pediatric cancer by donating to his athlete page. Performance-based pledges on an athlete's Marquee Event motivate our athletes to go above and beyond on Game Day.