In March of 2019, in our daily staff meeting, I was directed to reach out to a new member named Damon Taylor. Damon had just recently joined and had not gone through his new member orientation. He had expressed interest in working with a trainer as he was trying to get back into shape after a rather traumatic event.
Damon had gone to Oklahoma City to visit his daughter and her family where he was brutally attacked by a group of thugs and left for dead outside of a restaurant. This was back in early 2019 and the temperature that night was well below freezing. The result was frostbite in one of his feet where he almost lost his toes. When we first met, he was still wearing a protective boot however thankfully on the road to recovery.
Damon has quite the colorful background serving as a Marine from 1988 through 1995 fighting in both the Gulf War and Iraqi Freedom. Upon retiring from the military, he ultimately wound up with his own financial planning business based in the North Dallas area. When we met for the first time he was super excited to get started with his training and further wanted my help with his nutrition.
While alcohol had been a part of his life before, the experience in Oklahoma City pushed him to leave the bottle behind and further caused him to find his way back to God. There’s always a silver lining in every adversity and Damon was living that to the max. We agreed to train one day a week and he committed to doing 2-3 more workouts per week based on my program.
Beyond his training, we cleaned up his nutrition and added in the supplements needed to help his body recovery and progress from his efforts. Damon was all in from day one and used to crack me up with his “pre-workout” drink. The product is literally called “Hyde” as in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. He’s already one of the most high strung individuals I’ve ever met and with the addition of the “Hyde” formula, he was hilarious to work with.
From March until early August, he made tremendous gains in strength and improvements in his body composition adding muscle mass and dropping body fat.
I love working with clients who take their training seriously and Damon was in for the long term. That all changed on August 14th when he went to his eye doctor after struggling to read a simple bill at a restaurant.
His eye doctor directed him immediately to the emergency room where he reached out to me saying he would be missing his normal Saturday workout. This was a Friday evening and so I was proactive in following up on Saturday. At that point, a MRI hadn’t shown anything and he was waiting for a CT Scan for further investigation. His last communication was a promise to let me know the results.
On Sunday morning, I received a text that literally took my breath away. It said terminal brain cancer…6-12 months. A few days later, he had emergency brain surgery to remove the major portion of the stage 4 Glioblastoma. While the surgery was successful, there were still tumors in four other areas of his brain where the cancer was impossible to remove.
After 11 days in the hospital, Damon’s doctors determined to attack the remaining areas with chemo and radiation. We sat down two weeks into this process in the cafe at our gym for him to tell me his “story”. I offered to write this tribute for him because of his love and service to our country and for his efforts now in seeking help for his fellow soldiers who are less fortunate than him.
Moving forward, Damon will take the month of November off from treatments to evaluate with his doctors at UT Southwestern and Duke University. Ultimately, they will determine if any further treatments are warranted. The prognosis from his collective doctors from the beginning was that he would not survive. Without treatment, his life expectancy would have been 3-6 months. Now with treatment, the best he can hope for is maybe 12-15 months.
As Damon shared his story, I barely had words to communicate. Here was a man sharing not only what he had gone through but also what he planned to do with his remaining time…Lord willing. In so many cases in life, we can usually empathize to some degree with someone going through an extreme trial. In Damon’s case, I couldn’t even begin to image how he must feel.
As a Christian, Damon shared that he has peace with God and that one of his major priorities is to make amends with various people where relationships have been strained over the years. Further, he has already taken all the necessary steps to transition his company to his partners and to insure that his family will be well provided for.
Beyond his family, Damon’s larger mission is to draw attention to his fellow veterans who unfortunately do not have the same type of benefits due to their service record. As I mentioned above, he fought in both the Gulf War and Iraqi Freedom and was exposed to depleted uranium, two different kinds of nerve gas, and oil well fires…which are highly toxic. It has been established that Damon’s cancer only comes from radiation exposure which he most certainly was in Desert Storm.
Because of his lengthy service record, Damon was diagnosed with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) which qualifies him for a 70% disability rating. This insures that he is well taken care of in terms of medical expenses. He explained that just because you fight in a war, does not automatically give you the tag of PTSD which would limit your disability rating.
For his friends who fought in only Desert Storm, who were subjected to all the same toxins that Damon was, because of the nature of their service, they in many cases did not receive the tag of PTSD. After leaving the service, it is standard procedure for the government to provide medical coverage for five years. However without the 70% disability rating, after five years, the coverage runs out. Unfortunately there are many cases of veterans coming up with cases of cancer and other issues directly attributed to Desert Storm and yet they are left to take care of themselves with no support from our government.
Damon has already met with Secretary of Defense, James Madison, to ask for help for his fellow veterans. Outside of time with family and friends, the effort to seek further help for all veterans struggling with their health will be Damon’s final and most important legacy.
As I write this, Damon is planning a mid-November trip to Washington with his family to share with them a piece of American history that means so much to him. They will be touring the White House and if things go well, he may gain an audience with officials beyond just the basic tour for sake of telling his story.
God bless you Damon for your service to our country and God’s speed as you go “home” for the last time.