Alumnus survives cancer, mentors terminally-ill children

Peter Yesawich can’t sit still. He likes his cell phone where he can see it, his co-workers constantly approach him with questions, he eats lunch and dinner at his desk, and the only break he’ll take during the workday is for a six-mile run.

All this, and he still manages to volunteer with the American Cancer Society.

Where’s the fun in working yourself to death? For one, it’s a sign that Yesawich is alive.

The now 28-year-old designer was a freshman at Yale University when he was diagnosed with testicular cancer and learned that it had spread into his stomach and lymph nodes.

So he began treatment with what he says was a dangerous amount of chemotherapy for his age. “There were two or three weeks when I blacked out, and my life was nothing more than this haze,” Yesawich says. “All I wanted to do was just fight through, and I told myself I just needed to get through it, and from that point on it was like a miracle.”

A few years later, he transferred to the University of Denver’s School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management (HRTM). He later became HRTM student body president and was in remission by the time he graduated with a BSBA in 2005.

Even cancer-free, Yesawich still has the same mindset: to keep fighting.

Now, he’s a director of interactive marketing at Denver’s Karsh/Hagan, where he works on major accounts such as American Crew and McDonald’s. He likes everything about his job, including the “amazing” people he works with and meets everyday.

Yesawich is especially eager to meet people as a spokesman for the American Cancer Society. He speaks at Relay for Life events throughout Colorado, which he says is an obligation and a blessing as a cancer survivor.

His original motivation for volunteering was to help younger people diagnosed with cancer.

“Having someone who has experienced something similar firsthand can provide a valuable support that loved ones and friends can’t provide,” he says. “[Cancer survivors] provide perspective, hope and fuel for perseverance.”

In addition, he’s working to create a mentoring program for children with cancer and other terminal illnesses at the Children’s Hospital in Denver.

As far as Yesawich is concerned, his life is perfect the way it is now, and that optimism comes from what he’s been through. He’s quick to say he would not be the person he is today if he had never battled the disease: “Life is way too short for you or for me or anyone for that matter to not do what they want to do.”

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