Determination Pushes Ohio State Student to Complete Degree While Battling Cancer
NEWARK, OH, March 6, 2018 — Another semester, another regimen of chemotherapy. Having started his eighth treatment in January, this has become the norm for 27-year-old Daniel Chapman. After years of attending classes, studying and taking finals while enduring cancer treatment, the cycle will be broken this May when the Alexandria native graduates from The Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business with a bachelor’s degree in operations management.
Chapman graduated from Northridge high school in 2009, and then joined the United States Air Force. He was stationed in Tuscon, Arizona, had just accepted a promotion and was on the fast track to staff sergeant when a two years long medical investigation sparked by a pain in his knee concluded. The diagnosis: Ewing’s sarcoma that had metastasized in his lungs.
“I decided to go into the military to help pay for college. I planned to do four to six years, get out and go to school,” said Chapman. “Little did I know that I was going to end up with a job that I absolutely loved, wanted to spend 20 years doing it and then retire. Everything was looking up — and then life happened.”
Ewing’s sarcoma is a cancerous tumor that grows in the bones or in tissue around the bones. It is considered extremely rare but is the second most common malignant bone tumor in children. It most often affects children and young adults between ages 10 and 20. There is no known cause of Ewing’s sarcoma, and there are no ways to prevent it.
At the age of 21, Chapman found himself back at home after being medically retired from the military. That’s when he decided to fulfill his dream of being a Buckeye. In 2013 he enrolled at Ohio State Newark.
Though he’s finishing his degree in Columbus, Chapman says it was because of Ohio State Newark that he gained the courage to pursue his degree. He took some classes to test his ability to retain information while on chemotherapy and overcome the effects of “chemo brain.”
“Studying was the hardest for me,” said Chapman. “I depend on my mind instead of trying to feed it with studying. I go to every single one of my classes, try to pay attention and rely on active learning. I do all homework and all assignments. Somehow it always comes together.”
To date, Chapman has undergone chemotherapy, radiation and three surgeries. His longest period in remission was 11 months. He paused his education just once since starting his degree to cope with the effects of treatment. Now, he is making up for lost time by taking credit hours beyond a typical full-time schedule.
“It’s been disheartening every time starting again,” said Chapman. “Relapsing at the beginning of the last three semesters is very rough. When you’ve relapsed so many times, your doctor doesn’t have a go-to plan. He gives you options, but he doesn’t lean any certain way. You have to do your own homework and take your own gamble on which treatment will work.”
The chemotherapy he selected this round is three days a week during the first week of a three-week cycle and is scheduled around classes. Graduation, or in his words “to be a true, alumni Buckeye,” is a goal he is determined to achieve despite what doctors, nurses or anyone else may advise. Having that goal brings with it a sense of normalcy and distracts Chapman from the hardships of his diagnosis. Chapman also works as an office manager in his father’s company and flips houses with his whole family.
While it has yet to be seen if this chemotherapy is “the one,” Chapman has found “the one” to spend the rest of his life with. After walking across the stage to get his diploma, he will walk down the aisle with his fiancée, Morgan Zavodny. He proposed nearly one year ago, and it wasn’t done lightly.
“Before I got engaged, we had a lot of tough talks that normal mid-20 year olds would not have. I always knew she was the one, but I was always scared that I wouldn’t be here much longer. I didn’t want to stick her with that burden. She reassured me she is along for the short haul or the long haul – whatever happens — so I bought a ring.“
Thanks to the nonprofit Wish Upon a Wedding, Chapman doesn’t have to find time between classes and chemotherapy to plan for the big day. He and his fiancée were granted a wedding wish that includes a wedding planner, ceremony and reception for 50 guests. Wish Upon a Wedding grants weddings and vowel renewals to couples facing serious illness or life-altering circumstances.
After the I dos, the two Chapmans will travel west to see the country eventually landing in Tuscon – the place where this unexpected journey started.
“There’s a piece of me still out in Arizona,” he said. “I didn’t finish my time there.”
Once the honeymoon is over, Chapman is confident he will come up with a new goal. Until that time comes, he is focused on the finish line and plans to enjoy his much-deserved break. Through all the uncertainties he has faced and will face in the future, there is no doubt that Chapman is one determined and resilient Buckeye.
The Ohio State University at Newark offers an academic environment that’s inclusive of diversity, challenging but supportive with world-renowned professors and access to Ohio State’s more than 200 majors. It’s where learning comes to life. Research, study abroad and service learning opportunities prepare students for their careers in ways they never expected.