Adam Frey is grappling with his toughest foe, and holding his own
Frey, 23, was the 2007 Ivy League wrestling rookie of the year for Cornell
After a March 2008 car accident he learned that his body was racked with cancer
He talks of returning to Cornell next spring and has contemplated wrestling again
Adam Frey, the 2005 national junior Greco-Roman champion and the 2007 Ivy League wrestling rookie of the year, is wearing a long-sleeved sweatshirt and ski cap, standard garb for the weight-cutting jock. Indeed, for much of his young life 23-year-old Adam has spent the off-season shedding avoirdupois to one degree or another. But these days calories are the last things he wants to lose. He is bundled up because he feels cold, even though it's summer in his hometown of Pittsburgh.
That's no more unpleasant, though, than when he finds himself sweating profusely, which happens often during the night. "Some mornings after he gets out of bed," says his mother, Cindy Frey, "I just wring his sheets out." Adam, who now carries about 140 pounds on his 5'6'' frame, has lost as much as eight pounds as he tosses and turns, and sometimes he just gets up and sleeps somewhere else.
He has mouth sores. His fingertips are extremely sensitive to hot and cold. Often he feels disoriented, "not myself." Sometimes he has an intense desire to eat, but, when food is placed in front of him, he gets nauseous. Egg whites are about the only comestible that he can truly depend on. He has lost hair on his head and face. He despises the button-sized mediport that protrudes from the right side of his chest -- "I used to find every excuse in the world to take my shirt off," Adam says -- but the worst part is what people can't see: The mediport has a long tube that goes over his collarbone into his jugular vein.
Yes, Adam's twin set of cauliflower ears, the wrestlers' gladiatorial badge, don't seem like much of a problem these days, not while he's fighting a multiple-front battle with germ cell testicular cancer, taking it on with a brutal regimen of chemotherapy, one kind of poison trying to beat back another.
The war within him has been going on for about a year-and-a-half now, and, through it all, Adam has remained fist-shakingly, defiantly positive. "I'm going to beat this thing," he says. "The odds are long. But I'm going to beat it."
On March 25, 2008, a few days after his sophomore wrestling season at Cornell had ended with a loss in the NCAA championships, Adam walked away from a bad car accident in Ithaca only to discover, after the routine CAT scan, that his body was racked with cancer. Lesions were found on his lung and liver and in the lymph nodes of his abdomen, along with a bowling-ball-sized tumor between his kidneys. He had never smoked, chewed tobacco or done street drugs. "My body was what I depended on," he says. He was declared to be at Stage 3 -- inoperable and radiation-resistant. "All things considered," says Adam, "the prognosis couldn't have been much bleaker."
Sixteen months later, Adam is still here, his life an endless cycle of hospital visits, chemo treatments, cancer counts, injections and medical consultations. "I know way more than I ever wanted to know about cancer," says Adam. It goes without saying that someone this young should not have to endure such agony, but an older someone shouldn't have to, either.
Adam will admit to some why-me? moments along the way. But they don't last long. "He's hard-wired to compete," says his father, Jerry. "He doesn't know how to do anything except all-out." Adam has started the Adam Frey Foundation to raise money for cancer research -- the Adam Frey Classic held in July at Rider College raised about $15,000, and he hopes it will be an annual event. He reaches thousands of readers on his blog (adamfrey.us), on which he rarely sugar-coats the agony of his treatment but also manages to find some humor, as when he wrote of the day that he had to provide a sperm specimen at a women's hospital. "So there I was, the only male patient in a woman's hospital," wrote Adam. "You might as well put a sign on my head saying, 'Only here to masturbate.'"
Each entry brings hundreds of heartfelt responses. "He has touched many of us in ways that being an NCAA champion or multiple time AA [All-American] never could," wrote one reader. "... Everyone who reads it will be moved by his journey."