“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of those depths.” That’s a quote we recently stumbled upon from the Swiss-American psychologist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, who was a pioneer in near-death studies. The human fighting spirit is an amazing thing, and something many people underestimate, until the thing that is confronting you can no longer be ignored.
Now imagine you’re Corey Anthony Perez.
You’re at the gym one day and notice a somewhat enlarged lump on your leg, just behind the knee. Concerned by its abnormality in the way it feels and looks, you decide to visit the hospital for a checkup. After being told by health professionals that it’s a blood clot, you return home, only to find in the coming days that the lump is getting bigger, and the pain has increased. You go back to the hospital, where you’re advised that you may in fact have a cyst, and in order for it to disappear, it needs to be cut open and drained. The procedure is done by medical staff, and you go home being told - and thinking - that the lump will be gone in two days time.
What comes next is, by many accounts, unimaginable in itself.
What had previously been overlooked by doctors as a benign cyst, has now intensified tenfold by being cut open, and the lump on your leg blows out to a whopping 22 centimeters, forcing you to go in for emergency surgery to aid its removal. The misdiagnosed tumor it appears was cancerous, and seems to have become aggressive due to the incision made. Ushering you into a room on the 9th of December 2015, days after surgery and with curtains drawn, doctors officially break the news face-to-face, and diagnose you with cancer.
Rewind a while.
A twin brother to Dylan, Corey grew up in Bonnyrigg, before eventually calling the suburb of Green Valley, in Sydney’s South-West, his home. From the onset, life had its own unique way of throwing curveballs.
“My parents split up when I was young, and I’d rarely see my Dad,” he says. My Mum was doing it tough and struggled raising us two boys.”
It’s a scene many can relate to, playing your part in a not so ‘black and white’ childhood setting trying to do your absolute best, and from an area with some socio-economic difficulties at hand as well. While chatting, we land on a story dating back to Corey’s teen years in Green Valley, when a woman appeared on his driveway looking for drugs. Confused but curious, Dylan and Corey followed her in a car to the local service station, only to have a gun pulled on them both by a man who was presumably her dealer. “That’s the West”, he says laughing, and it becomes all the more apparent as we talk that Corey is so easily relatable as a person.
If you bring up his iTunes playlist you’ll see names like Eminem, Tupac, Biggie and other greats, just like you would in ours. On a more homegrown note, he’s an avid fan of Australian hip-hop – emcee Kerser being someone that has played quite a pivotal role in his interest and battle. As Corey and his brother were the only two fans at a Kerser show half a decade ago, the Campbelltown artist has remained a connection in his life, visiting him in hospital during chemotherapy treatment and staying in contact, like various other Australian artists have done. Music, as Corey explains to us, is part of his therapy.
“I’d be doing chemo (chemotherapy) sometimes and just having such a shit day, and I’ll put on their music just to push me through it” he says, referring to Bliss n Eso’s uplifting discography.
Of course music isn’t the only thing that ties us together. Corey has been an avid lover of the Geedup brand dating back many years before he was diagnosed. Just like the ‘Play For Keeps’ and ‘Succeed Extremely’ quotes of ours that stick in his mind, it’s reflective of a fighting spirit against all odds that we see in his eyes and hear in his tone. When you’re sitting face to face with a man who’s twenty-three and facing his own mortality, and he’s still lighting up the room with his infectious smile and down to earth attitude, you want to ask, “what is it that keeps you fighting?”
“Just to see the next day,” he states.
“My Mum, my Dad and my brother – I don’t want to leave them behind to be honest. It’s fucked to think about it. I have my future – I want to have kids, go back to work, earn money – just do me.”
This is a common theme that many can relate to in the cancer community. It’s an uncertain way of life, where each day is carefully measured and must be approached with the right amount of mental stamina for success to be an option. Corey’s motivation goes beyond himself and his predicament, knowing that there are others out there going 12 rounds with a the same deadly opponent as him, but that don’t necessarily have the right tools or skills to support themselves. His advice for others struggling is powerful.
“Talk about your issues,” he says.
“It plays a lot in your mental state, and has the ability to fuck you completely if you let it. Talk to the counselors and those wanting to help you. Never give up or stop pushing forward, because the moment you’re negative, it’ll kill you. Positivity is what keeps you alive.”
As we get to the heart of our conversation, we begin to understand the importance of a healthy mind. With the body as merely a vessel, we’re learning from Corey that to have a strong mind is the difference between life and death. Faced with his battle, it’s only human that there’ll be good days, and bad days too, where doubt might creep in.
“Accepting you fact you have cancer and accepting the fact you’re faced with death are two different things,” he explains to us. When you think of cancer you think ‘well, I can beat it’, but when they say they can’t cure you, that’s when you shit yourself. “
“But you have to accept it. From the moment he (the doctor) told me, I thought ‘fuck it, let’s go’.”
Given the fact that Corey has opted for no further treatment with the hospital system here, we move on to what he’s doing now as an effort to beat cancer. It’s something that many have probably heard about, but haven’t researched about further.
He’s trialling alternative medicine, in the form of cannabinoid treatment. The most notable cannabinoid is the phytocannabinoid tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive compound in cannabis. Cannabidiol (CBD) is another major constituent of the plant which plays a role in this type of treatment. Corey’s medicine is made from a boil up of these constituents from a certain strain of cannabis, found commonly in Afghanistan, due to its high medicinal value. It’s an expensive option though, and one tied up in legalities as well. Unlike laws being passed in Queensland that will allow medicinal cannabis – and variations down the track – to be prescribed to patients as early as next year, New South Wales has no such system. This is blocking potential patients who see chemotherapy as being more harmful than good, and in many instances, wish to seek something other than traditional Western medicinal options.
We asked Corey what his message to the world is, moving forward from here. It was something he felt better writing to us later, when he could gather his thoughts more concisely, as opposed to being put on the spot in front of all of us in the shop. This is what he wanted to say.
“Looking towards my cancer-free future, one message I’d like to leave to the world and my people is that you will not succeed with a negative surrounding. You must remain positive to get through this mad world that we live in, and surround yourself with positive people. Keep your mind free of any negativity – the less drama you have, the happier you’ll live. We all have different issues at this stage of life but you must talk to people too. That’s one thing I’ve learnt about fighting cancer – once you’re negative, you will fail – you will fall. Stay true to yourself and keep the ones that love you close. I could go on and on about staying positive and staying real, because they’re the only things I’ve done my whole life. The legacy I will leave behind and that I will continue to go by, is living life to the fullest - we only have one life to fulfill our dreams, and time doesn’t wait! ‘If time moves quick, shouldn’t life try to keep up?” That’s a Kerser quote I go by on the daily, and it’s even tattooed on me. A huge thanks to TheOzProject and Geedup for making this happen!”
You can follow this link - here - to purchase a 'Fight 4 Friends' Corey Perez x Geedup Co t-shirt, with all the profits directed to Corey to fund his cancer treatment.
Alternatively, you can click this link - here - to donate to his GoFundMe campaign which is still active.
From everybody at Geedup Co. and in Corey's corner, we want to say thankyou.