“ Keep your head up and don’t be sad. This is just a valley, and you are just a traveler passing through, gaining wisdom along the way. Everything will be fine. You just have to believe it.
Jay Carter is a tech savvy mAss Kicker. We met Jay last year at Stupid Cancer’s CancerCon in Denver, CO, USA. Earlier this year, we sat with him on a very unique panel that discussed Survivorship in Communities of Color. Jay graduated from Sacramento State University with a BS in Kinesiology-Exercise Science. He is a co-founder of the web development company, Dunbar and Carter. He is very involved in the survivor community through Epic Experience, Reel Recovery, the 2015 North Texas Blood Cancer Conference, and Stupid Cancer’s 2016 CancerCon Conference. We are very honored to interview Mr. Carter this week as a “Featured mAss Kicker.”
mK: Thanks for doing this Jay! How did you find out about your diagnosis?
JC: One Friday morning in September of 2011, I woke up and discovered a small bump on my chin. By the following Sunday, that small bump had increased to the size of a softball. I went to the ER, and after eight hours of tests and waiting, I was diagnosed with Chronic Myeloid Leukemia.
mK: What were your symptoms?
JC: Besides the swollen chin that landed me in the ER, the two other symptoms I experienced leading up to my diagnosis were extreme fatigue and random bruising. Being (what I thought was) a healthy, 26 year old who had just moved to Texas three months prior, I dismissed the symptoms. With the fatigue, I told myself I was still adjusting to the heat and humidity of Texas. With the bruising, I figured I had just bumped into something at the gym and didn’t remember.
mK: How are you doing now? What are you up to?
JC: For the most part, I’m doing well. I had a stem cell transplant in January of 2013, and it was successful. I have been in remission since March of 2014. The only real issues I have nowadays are from my weakened immune system. It is easy for me to get sick, so I have to take extreme caution when going around large groups of people.
What am I up to? Nowadays, I run a web design and development company in my spare time, but my main focus is on cloud computing architecture. I am currently enrolled in a program that will allow me to do just that. Other than that, I am in Colorado frequently doing work with Epic Experience, a cancer non-profit that provides outdoor adventure camps to adult cancer survivors. I am their web developer and a member of the alumni board.
mK: What motivates you?
JC: Just being alive motivates me. If I had not gone to the ER for my swollen chin, I would most likely be dead right now because I would have continued to ignore my symptoms. Knowing the very real possibility that I should probably be dead motivates me everyday to work towards becoming the best I can be in all facets of life.
mK: The survivors that we admire, appreciate living and use their new perspectives to improve the “survivorship climate!” Who is your personal hero?
JC: My grandmother. Although she is no longer here, she taught me many life lessons that I have utilized while dealing with cancer and its aftermath.
mK: Grand parents have so much experience to share! What makes you laugh, cry, angry?
JC: Lets see: laugh – a good inside joke.
Cry – real men don’t cry haha. Just kidding. I get pretty upset hearing news that I’ve lost yet another friend or loved one to that stupid thing we call cancer. Seriously. F cancer.
Angry – people who waste my time.
mK: What would you say is the most interesting thing you’ve ever done?
JC: I would say the most interesting thing I have done is change career paths because of cancer. Computers and technology have been passions of mine for as long as I can remember, but they were just that – passions.
Before my diagnosis, my goal was to become a Sports Medicine doctor. In fact, I moved to Texas for my internship in physical medicine. After being diagnosed and starting chemo, I was unable to continue to working in hospitals. Around the same time, one of my former lab partners was opening a gym, and asked me to help build his website.
About six months later, I was in Oklahoma with Reel Recovery, a retreat for men with cancer. One night after dinner, a discussion came up about things we’ve had an opportunity to do since being diagnosed that we would not have done otherwise. I began talking about building the gym website for my buddy. Later that night, I was approached and asked to build a website for the organization.
Three months later, I attended an Epic Experience camp, and a similar conversation arose with the same outcome: I was asked to revamp their website. It was then that I realized I was onto something. So, I began my web design and development company, dunbarcarter.com. I have recently expanded into app development, and I’m currently working on expanding my knowledge to venture into cloud computing as well.
I’m not sure what the future holds for my company, but my ultimate goal is to create something that merges healthcare and technology in such a way that it is useful and beneficial to other cancer survivors. I always wanted to be a doctor because I enjoy helping people. Cancer robbed me of that opportunity in that capacity. But, with my venture into tech, the method may have changed, but the ultimate goal is the same.
mK: Crazy how things fall into place… What is the toughest challenge a survivor faces?
JC: Trying to get back back to “normal”.
mK: OK, here’s the part where we try to get to know you better… If you were elected President of the United States what would you do in your first 24 hours?
JC: I would ask to be briefed on everything we know about extraterrestrial tech.
mK: HAHAHA! What is next on your agenda?
JC: Great question. I’m not sure what’s next. Of course I have plans, but experience has taught me that plans can change as fast as a trip to the ER. The only concrete plan I have is to remain as flexible as possible for anything that life may throw my way.
mK: Any advice for people or loved ones that get daunting diagnoses?
JC: I’ll share with you the advice my grandmother gave me after hearing my diagnosis. She said,
“Keep your head up and don’t be sad. This is just a valley, and you are just a traveler passing through, gaining wisdom along the way. Everything will be fine. You just have to believe it.”
mK: Tell us something about yourself that people probably didn’t know… anything.
JC: I have played the piano since the age of six. After chemo and my transplant, I could not remember how to play. It finally started coming back to me within the past year. Whenever I’m having a stressful day, I take a break from whatever I’m doing and I just play. I enjoy playing again because while I’m playing, nothing else matters besides the music.
mK: Any parting words for all the mass Kickers?
JC: Figure out what makes you happy and do it.
Jay Carter: piano de-stresser, “flexible planner” dude, extra terrestrial fan boy, peanut butter ice cream/sports center addict, web design entrepreneur, active survivor advocate, and post stem cell transplant “thriver.” Thanks again for doing the interview Jay. We are looking forward to seeing what you do next. Check out his website, dunbarcarter.com to see some of the work his company has done!