Best friends stick together. That’s a lesson Dr. Martin “Marty” Hogan learned when, in 2016, he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) – a blood cancer that is extremely rare for Marty’s demographic.
“ALL is a common cancer in kids, and it’s very treatable with kids,” Marty said. “They go through chemo and have a 96-97 percent survival rate, which is fantastic. It’s a rare cancer to have for males between the ages 30-40. My personality is the kind where I want statistics, and my statistics were not good. They were 15 percent.”
He found support in two key people: his wife, Whitney, and his best friend, Dave, a Twist Out Cancer board member and longtime Brushes with Cancer artist. It was Dave who introduced the two of them to Twist Out Cancer.
A few months after Marty’s diagnosis, Dave brought up Brushes with Cancer. He thought Marty could benefit from attending a Brushes event and meeting the Twist Out Cancer community. Dave had been an active member of the Twist community for a while and knew the love and support Twist provides is something his best friend needed. So, Mary and Whitney got dressed up and attended their first Brushes with Cancer gala.
“It was amazing,” Marty said. “At the time I didn’t have hair, but we went. For us, that was our first date after I had gotten sick.”
For every Brushes with Cancer event, an artist is paired up with an inspiration, or someone touched by cancer. A few months after attending together, Dave had an idea to run by Marty. He wanted Marty to be his inspiration for the next Brushes with Cancer event. If any Twist Out Cancer artist could capture Marty’s story, it was Dave.
“He was one of the first people I let know what was going on,” Marty said. “Dave was with me throughout my time in the hospital and past three and a half years.”
Those years were grueling, too. Marty’s diagnosis was serious and he spent 42 nights at the hospital, isolated from the outside world. Only family and close, handpicked friends were allowed to visit. Whitney was at the hospital from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. every day, and when Dave couldn’t be there in person, he connected digitally.
“When I first told Dave about being sick, he’d text me every day,” Marty said. “He’d always finish his texts with ‘Hang in there, buddy. We got this.’”
It only made sense for Marty and Dave to honor their deep connection through a Brushes with Cancer partnership.
Dave invited Marty over to talk through ideas for the art piece and brought out a pen and piece of paper. The two talked about significant words throughout Marty’s cancer journey and the meaning behind those words.
Dave was surprised with Marty’s list, which included words like “pancakes” and “Freddie,” but Marty revealed deep meanings behind his words. While Marty was in the hospital, he thought he’d never be well enough to cook his family pancakes, or take his dog Freddie for a walk.
“All I wanted to do was smell fresh air and walk Freddie,” Marty said. “I was locked in an isolation room, being filled with chemo andI wasn’t sure if I was getting out. I thought I’d never smell fresh air again. Every time I take Freddie for a walk – when we get up to the driveway – I cry like a child.”
Dave took this new information, sat on it for a little bit and came back to Marty with a plan.
“He said, ‘I need you to trust me. I’m not going to tell you what the plan is or give you tips and hints. Are you good if I run with this?’ I said ‘I literally trust you with my life… I don’t want spoilers, let’s just do it.’”
Marty had no idea what Dave planned, and the first time he saw the art piece was at the Brushes with Cancer event. That being said, it was an incredibly powerful moment for Marty, Whitney, and their best friend, Dave.
“I couldn’t handle it,” Marty said.
The piece is simple and powerful. On a white background, Dave spelled out his famous mantra: WE’VE GOT THIS.
Each letter is made up of the words “F**K CANCER” and become more visible as the viewer gets closer. Sprinkled throughout are a few individual words that are special between Marty and Dave.
“I saw his piece and literally grabbed him and sobbed on his shoulder for five minutes.”
Since his personal experience with Brushes with Cancer, Marty has thrown himself into Twist Out Cancer’s mission, helping whenever he can.
“Anybody who’s thinking of getting involved, either as an artist or supporter of the group, the Brushes team are the absolute best people.”
Marty was a speaker at the 2020 Brushes with Cancer Chicago kickoff event and a new member of the host committee.. Recently, the Twist Out Cancer store launched shirts and tumblers with Dave’s “We Got This” design on them.
On March 9, Marty had his last cancer treatment and said he has been feeling healthy since.