When you’re faced with a serious illness, there’s no right way to react. There may be fear, uncertainty, hope, determination – you can experience all of them in the span of an hour, or something different altogether. When fighting a potentially fatal disease, perhaps the best course of action is to focus on something that makes you want to keep going. Maybe that’s your family, your dog – but for a dad named Nathan Tirey, it was an unusual and admirable mission.
In 2019, the former army sergeant was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), a rare form of blood cancer. After his diagnosis, Tirey realized that though he was facing an extremely difficult situation, he was far from alone. In fact, Tirey learned that 176,200 people were diagnosed with blood cancer in the US every year.
The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center where Tirey participated in a clinical trial shared a YouTube video of this dad’s incredible feat. In the video, Tirey explained, “I just kept thinking about that number. And just one day I decided, you know what? I’m going to do 176,200 pushups in a year while I’m in treatment.”
As if the arduous journey to recovery wasn’t enough, this determined dad decided to do roughly 500 pushups a day while undergoing treatment for his blood cancer. Tirey wanted to do one pushup for every person diagnosed with blood cancer annually in the US, showing not only his commitment to his own battle but his commitment to those fighting the same one.
“Just doing that amount of pushups really drives home the fact that there are a lot of people who get this,” Tirey explained.
Though he’s admittedly “not a big social media guy,” Tirey wanted a way to both document his pushups and share his journey with the world. He created a YouTube channel called Pushing Through Cancer, an aptly-named channel filled with dozens of videos that combine his ambitious daily workouts with reflections on his mission.
In the powerful final video, Tirey invited his two kids to join him for his final five pushups. After a year of building up to the final stretch, the father of two wanted his family to finish with him. When the trio completes their final five, Tirey’s wife shoots a confetti cannon and balloons fall from the ceiling. Exhausted and proud, Tirey laughs and reflects on the work he’s done.
“176,200 pushups in about nine months,” he says, tearing up at how powerful his seemingly silly mission really was. “There’s a reason I had to do this.”