Utahns cheer on ‘larger-than-life’ runner at NYC Marathon after cancer nearly took his life

On November 7, millions, including numerous individuals here in Utah, watched and waited as Tommy Rivers Puzey of Flagstaff, Arizona, crossed the finish line of the New York City Marathon. (Pavel1964, Shutterstock)

Estimated reading time: 7-8 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — On November 7, millions, including numerous individuals here in Utah, watched and waited as Tommy Rivers Puzey of Flagstaff, Arizona, crossed the finish line of the New York City Marathon.

His 9 hours 19 minutes for the 26.2 miles was a far cry from this elite athlete’s personal best of 2 hours 18 minutes, but completing the New York Marathon was “the hardest athletic feat” according to Puzey. he has achieved ever achieved. Because only a year ago the professional athlete learned not only to walk again, but also to swallow and hold a single tool.

From the top of the athletic world to the bleak cancer diagnosis

In July 2020, just a few months after the COVID-19 pandemic, Puzey found himself having symptoms of the novel coronavirus, including coughing and shortness of breath. A trip to the emergency room didn’t confirm his suspicions, but instead sparked perhaps one’s worst fear: cancer.

Puzey’s cancer was a rare and aggressive form called primary pulmonary NK/T cell lymphoma. The prognosis was bleak and Puzey would find himself fighting for his life while the world would fight him.

One person who has been holding every update on Puzey’s condition was Zac Marion, a native of Logan, who knows Puzey from both the running and professional worlds, as they are both athletic trainers for Utah-based fitness company iFit. Marion said that when the news of Puzey’s condition came, it was as if a superhero had been knocked down.

“I met Tommy in 2014 when we both ran a race called Run Rabbit Run, and we’ve shared a few trail miles since then,” said Marion. “One of the beauties of Tommy is that he is very unsuspecting. He is quiet, reserved and humble. He is a phenomenal athlete, but he is not one to talk about himself. His character is much bigger than his presence, and he is really has gained a following just doing what he loves.

“We all look up to Tommy, not only for the athlete he is, but also for his larger-than-life character. He’s invincible.”

We all look up to Tommy for not only the athlete he is, but also his larger-than-life character. And when the news came out that he had been diagnosed with this cancer, it was unbelievable because we all saw him as invincible.

–Zac Marion, Tommy Puzey’s boyfriend

Unlike many of the friends they share, Marion, who has a doctorate in physical therapy, knew the prognosis for his friend was extremely bleak.

“NKT cell cancer in the lungs is devastating,” Marion said. “If I know what I know, it will more than likely end up devastating if someone has this cancer. But Tommy has proven time and again, just like an athlete, that he is tough and knows how to endure pain and suffering. knew if anyone made it, Tommy would.’

If there’s one person who would agree with Marion, it’s Tommy Puzey’s father, Kim Puzey, who lived in the Salt Lake Valley until the early 1980s. Kim Puzey took the time to talk to KSL.com about his son, who says he is both humbled and overwhelmed by the attention.

Kim Puzey expressed his understanding that people are rightly inspired by his son’s story, but also noted that attention can be difficult at times. With that in mind, he shared some thoughts in an effort to paint a complete picture of his son, who the world has come to know, love, and who he is inspired by.

“When I heard about Tommy’s condition, I felt an anvil resting on my chest,” the father said. “But I believed the outcome would be good.”

Kim Puzey said this despite seeing his son hooked up to hoses and a fan to keep him alive. He said the feeling that his son would make it came for several reasons that he couldn’t pinpoint, but he noted his son’s character and will to overcome adversity.

“We have a strong household,” Kim Puzey said, speaking of his entire family. “I don’t know how to describe it. Maybe it’s in our blood, or maybe it’s learned. Whatever it is, we don’t look for excuses. Once we set our course, it is what it is. Tommy is very “Strong physically and mentally, but also extremely intelligent. He has a wife and three children who need him, and I know he insisted on being here for them.”

Tommy Puzey, whom many refer to as “Rivs,” had hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of people coming forward with him, along with the hashtag #runwithrivs. A GoFundMe account* dedicated to his treatment has reached nearly $1 million, showing how deeply his story has touched people around the world.

Over the course of treatment, he would go into a medically induced coma, chemotherapy and bone marrow transplant – all of which would weaken and wither his body from 175 pounds to 98 pounds.

As the months went by, Tommy’s wife, Steph Catudal, kept their hundreds of thousands of Instagram followers updated about Tommy’s condition, often based on her own experience of losing her father to cancer. Her poetic words caused readers to have hope at the same time as her members and at the same time. It was the dark and hopeful aspects that Kim Puzey said was critical, especially as his son’s condition began to improve.

From the death door to the New York City Marathon

“What’s important to note is that a year ago Tommy couldn’t even get out of bed on his own,” said Kim Puzey. “He first started with 10 steps with his walker, then 10 became 12, then 12 became 20, then 100, 500 and 1,000 steps. What a lot of people don’t know is that Tommy is a private man who spent two decades on it. meant for this to happen, but here’s Tommy in the spotlight just because he was doing what he loved, and sometimes the attention can be quite overwhelming.’

And while Kim Puzey wanted to point out the challenge of being in the spotlight, he did say that what his son experiences is universal, something that draws people to Tommy’s story.

“There’s something about suffering that brings us together,” Kim said. “Suffering is universal, but even in the midst of suffering you can find things to celebrate. You can suffer and celebrate at the same time. This is something I’ve come to realize, and Tommy’s finish at the New York City Marathon is proof of that .”

Marion agreed that it was indeed inspiring to see his friend crossed the finish line with a smile on his face – knowing full well that the smile on Tommy’s face was not without pain.

“Tommy is a huge inspiration to me because not only has he been able to overcome the invincible, but also because he does it with such grace and humility,” said Marion. “Tommy is the type of person who will always see things as an opportunity to make the world a better place to live in; and even in his time of need, he does just that.”

As for the prognosis for Tommy Puzey, his father said it is currently classified as unknown. But if there’s one thing history has shown, it’s moving forward what “Rivs” does best.

For those who want to continue following Tommy Rivers “Rivs” Puzey, he can be found on Instagram @tommy_rivs.

*KSL.com cannot guarantee that the funds deposited into the account will be spent on the persons named as beneficiaries. If you are considering making a deposit into the account, you should consult your own advisers and otherwise proceed at your own risk.

About the author: Arianne Brown

Arianne Brown is a mother of nine wonderful children and a former collegiate runner who combines these two worlds word for word. Visit Arianne’s KSL.com author page to read more of her articles.×

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