Like so many of our troops, Navy veteran Bryan Fazio has been courageous on the frontlines. These days, however, Fazio is displaying his bravery once again by fighting a very different kind of war against an adversary that doesn’t fight fair.
At glance, Fazio, 26, looks like any other healthy young man.
He’s been diligently working on his MBA, and his mentor, Dr. Helen Eckmann, assistant professor at Brandman University, is a huge fan.
“We need more people like him in this world. He’s a problem-solver and he's smart and he's definitely hard working,” said Eckmann.
While accomplishing his academic goals, Fazio must frequent the hospital to undergo chemotherapy treatment. Fazio has terminal cancer and has been given only months to live.
“It’s been really tough the past three years, going through this at my age. This just isn’t something you expect to get stuck with,” said Fazio.
For Fazio’s mother, Sheryl Silver, watching her son battle his illness is extremely difficult.
“You’re up at night and you’re throwing up and sometimes he’d just look at me, and there were a couple times when he would just look at me and go, ‘Does God just hate me, mom?’” said Silver.
Fazio joined the Navy in 2009 with big dreams. However, shortly after, he was diagnosed with aggressive Hodgkins Lymphoma.
The diagnosis ended his Navy career.
But Fazio says he never left the Navy – and everything it stands for -- behind.
“The Navy really taught me how to have commitment and to move forward,” he said.
Fazio is using that commitment to defy his cancer.
For example, achieving an MBA had been a lifelong goal for Fazio, so enrolled in a program despite his diagnosis.
“Even though I’ve been given this so-called death sentence, I want to continue to make the most out of what life I have left,” he told NBC 7.
Meantime, Fazio has been fighting cancer in every way he can: chemotherapy, radiation, and two bone-marrow transplants.
But in February he was given just nine months to live by doctors.
So, with the odds against him, Fazio doubled down by doubling up at school.
“I knew the timeline that the doctors gave me and kind of what was going on, so I doubled up on my classes so I'd be able to graduate this year,” he explained.
And, with that determination, two weeks ago, he finally did it and graduated with his MBA with a big message to his disease.
“Cancer may have won the battle, but I’m just trying to not let it win the war,” said Fazio.
Fazio has been a huge inspiration to students and faculty at Brandman University. So much, they've created a scholarship for ill or wounded veterans in his name.
If Fazio were to go by his prognosis, he would only have three more months to live.
Instead, he's thinking about his next goal -- to achieve his doctorate.