May 6, 2018 Buckeye sets sights on life goals, beating cancer

Daniel Chapman - Commencement Makhija

The Ohio State University is a part of Daniel Chapman. It connects to his family, it’s what he loves and it’s one of his passions. Scarlet and gray are in his DNA.

“I’m from Columbus and always wanted to be a Buckeye, like a true Buckeye. So that’s all there is to it,” he said. “Growing up in my house, it’s the Buckeyes. It’s all we are and all we’ve ever really lived for. I decided I was going to graduate from there. That’s just what’s going to happen.”

Just attending Ohio State wasn’t enough. Being eligible for an associate’s degree wasn’t enough. It was about finishing. And that’s exactly what he’s done. He just earned his bachelor’s degree in operations in May from Fisher College of Business.

His Ohio State career actually began during his last two years of high school when he attended Central Ohio Technical College, which partners with The Ohio State University at Newark. It was here he took college courses on engineering, statistics, and calculus. His recent graduation from the main campus is an important feather in his cap.

In fact, he’s compiling an ever-growing list of accomplishments in life. Beyond attaining his degree, he’s a homeowner and marrying the love of his life.

And there’s another box to check off: beating cancer once and for all.

The hard fight 

Chapman has Ewing’s sarcoma, an extremely rare type of tumor that grows in the bones or soft tissue around the bones — such as cartilage or nerves. He’s waged battle against it for the last six years, and the last several months of chemotherapy have sapped the strawberry-blonde color from his hair and left it white.

Despite all the wonderful things he’s doing, some people only see his disease. 

“They treat you like you’re contagious or something,” Chapman said. “When I was 18, turning 19, and I was being diagnosed, I didn’t know anything about cancer. I never would have if I hadn’t been diagnosed. My grandpa had it when I was younger. That’s all I knew. So you get a lot of the people like, ‘You have cancer? My grandma had cancer. She died.’”

Chapman said he understands these people are just trying to communicate and not bring him down.

“I try not to get upset about it because they’re just trying to be nice … but it’s tough,” he admitted.

He just wants to feel like any other regular person. 

“I’m not afraid to talk about my cancer journey, but I’ve also accomplished so many other things like a normal human being,” he said.  “And a lot of people tend to forget about that. Even close friends of mine and family. They’ll say, ‘Hey, how are you feeling?’ And I’ll tell them, and then they’re done talking to me.”

Daniel Chapman - Pelotonia
Daniel, far left, has participated in Pelotonia twice.

The most important ally

One of the people in his life who sees beyond the diagnosis is his fiancée, Morgan. A year into his treatment, Chapman went to visit a friend from high school. Morgan was visiting a friend from college. Turns out it was the same friend. Love quickly blossomed.

“Cancer plays a big role in slowing you down sometimes, especially lifelong decisions like getting married and stuff like that. I didn’t want to strap her down and not be here. So we had a lot of conversations that 20-some-year-olds probably wouldn’t normally have,” he said.

Those discussions between the two ultimately changed his mind.

“Shortly after, I bought a ring and got engaged,” he said.

A new plan

Chapman was serving in the Air Force six years ago when the cancer first appeared.

“I had severe knee pains, and I kept going back to the hospital,” Chapman said. “They didn’t know what it is was and finally they figured out through some scans that I had a tumor in my leg. Then I had biopsies and more scans and found out that, since it had taken them two years to figure out what I had, it had now metastasized to my lungs.”

He was heartbroken when his military superiors told him he needed to be medically retired. He had planned on being in the Air Force for 20 years and pursuing his degree afterward. So he decided to chase his college education much sooner than planned.

Although he graduated from the university’s main campus, he gained the confidence to pursue his education while enrolled at Ohio State Newark in 2013. Classes there weren’t just about learning information — but how well he could retain the facts while undergoing treatment.

He didn’t know if he was destined to suffer the effects of “chemo brain” — a term used by cancer survivors to describe cognition and memory issues that can happen after treatment.  Chapman dug in, attended every class, knocked out all assignments and ultimately was able to absorb the material effectively.

W.C. Benton, the Edwin D. Dodd Professor of Management and a professor of operations and supply chain management at Fisher, lauded Chapman for his perseverance in the classroom.

“We spent a lot of time in office hours getting caught up before the first exam; his energy level was incredible,” said Benton, who taught Chapman’s Operations Planning and Control class. “I was really impressed with his abilities and his motivation and passion while going through all he was going through.”

Chapman ultimately did well on the exam and outperformed many other students.

“He has a lot of perseverance and knows how to stay positive about his future; that’s what I like about him,” Benton said.

A bright future

Rounds of chemo have come and gone, and doctors continue to try different methods. He’s recently started his eighth treatment option.

“So now I’m getting this list from my doctor: things you have done already and options for you in the future,” he said. “The bottom list is getting slimmer and the top list is getting fatter, and it’s not so fun.”

Chapman has been receiving treatment at Nationwide Children's Hospital and received radiation therapy at the James Cancer Hospital. He remains optimistic for his bright future, one filled with a marriage and a career — he’s considering one within the government sector in contracting.

And he’s committed to continuing his fight against the disease.

“I’m going to knock out some more chemo and beat the cancer back down. And move on,” he said.

While his journey to Ohio State may not have happened as he had planned, Chapman has a degree and, perhaps more important, the experiences and memories of being a true Buckeye and a proud alumnus.

“One of my friends recently met me and she said, ‘What are you doing here? Why are you in school? Go live your life!’ And I said, ‘This is me, living my life!’”

Daniel Chapman - Fisher Hall