Living the life: Bastos BJJ student training 4-5 times a week despite terminal diagnosis
MIDLAND, TX, June 23, 2014 – Anyone who trains Brazilian Jiu Jitsu knows that while physical strength can be useful, superior technique and belief in that superior technique trumps everything else. BJJ students are taught on a daily basis that no situation is inescapable, that a correct defense exists for every bad situation, and that the power of knowledge is insurmountable.
Given the proliferation of BJJ, the world has gotten to see some amazing victories of the human spirit. People missing limbs, in some cases all limbs, people battling all manner of maladies, illness and disability using BJJ to climb above their hardship and ultimately prove that in fact they are capable of so much more than anyone ever thought possible.
What about an invisible opponent? What about an opponent who has no joints to break, no throat to choke? What about terminal, stage 4 lung cancer?
Joe Mancaruso is no stranger to the horrors of cancer; Joe was first diagnosed with testicular cancer in 1985 and had two surgeries and four rounds of chemo. In 1987 he had a recurrence, fortunately after addressing the cancer in 1987 he went into remission.
In 2007 Joe began studying Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and in his own words fell in love with it. “When I kept getting my ass kicked and went back for more.”
In the 6th year of Joe’s study he was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. “I have never been a smoker and there is no obvious cause…” In spite of there being no obvious cause Joe was far more mentally prepared for his situation than most people would be “I had faced death when I was young, The surgery in 86 left me with one kidney, the 8 rounds of chemo left me with nerve damage. I have no feeling from my knees and elbows down. So I have always felt I am on borrowed time and thought I might not make to old age. So I was pretty calm through it all. My wife Cindy and my kids took it hard. With all that being said I felt like if anyone could survive for five years, I would be that 1 in 100.”
A central aspect of Joe’s method of dealing with his cancer is his diet. Joe uses what is called a Ketogenic diet “I eat mostly healthy fats avocados, olives, coconut oil, and nuts. Also bacon, butter and cheese to get enough calories.” As well as a slue of supplements “…Teas, herbs in my diet- Matcha Green Tea mixed with Moringa Powder Green Tea, Tea (various) Resveratrol (Shaklee) Selenium Curcumim Turkey Tail Mushrooms IP-6 & Inositol Indol 3 Carbinol Grape Seed Extract Quercitin D-3 B-12 Astragalus Ashwagandha Root Artimisin Omega 3 Fish Oil Multi-Vitamin Magnesium Potassium Gingko Biloba Bromelain Alpha-Lipoic Acid Glucosamin & Chondroitin N-A-C Glutathione Milk Thistle Shark Cartilage Melatonin.” Joe’s diet and mentality have allowed him to stay on the mat, he has also drawn some inspiration from a book called Radical Remissions by Dr. Kelly Turner.
One major element to Joe’s lifestyle is quality of life. Even if Joe’s methods prove to be futile, he will not have lived his final months in discomfort “I was miserable doing only one of the three drugs they prescribed, I would be dead if I kept doing it. I am living the dream right now I get sunshine every day, I spend time with my wife, I like to cook, read, travel and train with kettle bells.” The key is that Joe lives each day the way so many people wish they could.
Apart from Joe’s lifestyle, he also has a spiritual component which he is tapping into to help manage “I am not aligned with any religious group, however I am spiritual and believe that there is more out there. I did meet a lady named Sister Dulce out of Baton Rouge LA, she is known around the world for helping and praying for people. I was a little skeptical to visit her and did it for my wife. I am now a believer and feel she is the real deal and a great person. I try talk to her weekly and she prays for me.” Joe also has a blog that he uses to share his experiences, www.evencancerisbetterwithbacon.com. He has loving family and friends supporting him “Shout out to Cindy, my kids, Bruno Bastos and Brad Barnes.”
Joe’s Jiu Jitsu training is evolving along with his lifestyle “I have been training 4-5 times a week, the only injury I have had was my elbow popped. I feel really good on the conditioning side and considering only full capacity in one lung and still rusty I am doing pretty well. I am about 40lbs lighter than before the diagnosis, some loss of strength. The biggest problem I have is that the caliber of my training partners is crazy; Bruno and Brad are excellent coaches. These guys are crazy good. Bruno is intense, I love it” Joe will also be competing this year “I am going to compete in IBJJF Dallas and IBJJF Masters Worlds… I am excited!” Most people in Joe’s situation are struggling to survive; Joe is training and preparing to compete in one of the most difficult sports in the world.
“My doctor, is baffled that I am still around, have not seen the oncologist since august of 2013… My last 3 x-rays show no change I see my doctor every 4 months… Doctors won’t comment on alternative medicine. Diet, exercise, spirituality, and the mind play key roles in radical remissions.” The reality is that Joe’s case is a rare one. In the terms of submission fighting, Joe is using a low percentage escape to deal with a high percentage submission, but it is working, which is what take the situation from tragic to remarkable. How does the cancer affect Joe? “Not at all, I believe I am that 1 % that beats a terminal diagnosis. I think it is a problem that I can manage, a day at a time.”
In Brazilian Jiu Jitsu so many positions are only escapable using paths that most people never realize, paths that may be uncomfortable. Many very strong people will try to fight out of submissions only to be caught in subsequent positions. Similarly, so often the methods modern medicine has to address cancer drastically inhibit the quality of life in patients and ultimately may speed up their demise. Unfortunately, these methods are in fact the cure, but in Joe’s case there is no cure that has been accepted by the medical community. Doctors are, essentially powerless to really help him. But Joe has found a path of escape. This path has already proven successful at stymieing a devastating situation and if the trend continues Joe will be part of that 1%.
One of the best things about covering the Texas fight scene is the close interpersonal relationship TXMMA.com has developed with the people interviewed for the site. Following up on career progressions and watching these fighters grow over the years makes the effort of doing these interviews worth it. Joe Mancaruso is a true inspiration and the staff at TXMMA would like nothing more than to get to do a follow up piece on him in three years, once he’s fully recovered.