When I found the online Lego community back in 2002 the undisputed heavyweight champ of the Space crowd was Chris Fazoom Giddens. Part of that reputation came from mind-blowing builds like the Slam, the Doulos and of course the genre defining Vanguard. Unlike my builds from the early days and yours, the vast majority of Fazoom’s spacecraft still hold up today despite their lack of cheese slopes and fancy brackets. Along with dozens of other builders I took direct inspiration from Chris and his Pre Classic Space theme to develop my own Iron Reich series of vehicles and minifigs. Yes, constant reader, I too was a fanboy. Along with Dan Jassim and a handful of other builders Chris had a huge impact on my early building, the way I thought about the community and ultimately my longevity in the hobby. But it wasn’t just the building that made Chris stand out from the crowd; it was his easy sense of humor, readiness to share and willingness to always embrace the new guy. I had the good fortune to meet Chris at 2004’s Brickfest in Washington D.C. and I have to admit that a small, petty part of me was hoping he’d be a jerk so I could say “yeah, I met Giddens, he’s an awesome builder but man what a tool!“, something to make him seem more human. I ran into Chris while boarding an elevator on the bottom floor and by the time we’d reached the top he had me laughing my ass off and thoroughly ashamed of myself for harboring such thoughts. We’ve been friends ever since.
Flash forward a decade and I’m going through Fazoom’s photostream, hoping to see some WIP shots of his latest project when I came across this note.
To say the least it was shocking to read that Chris has “One mean case of Embryonal Carcinoma”. After reading up on it a little I found that Embryonal Carcinoma is a relatively uncommon type of germ cell tumor that occurs both the ovaries and testes and that one fifth to two thirds of patients with tumors composed predominantly of embryonal carcinoma have metastases at diagnosis. Chris fell right into those cold hard numbers, with a lump starting in his right testicle and spreading out because by his own admission he “waited too long“. Historically, the treatment of testicular cancer was largely based on luck: if the tumor was detected when still confined, there was a high chance of cure, if not, the prognosis was very grim. In fact, in the not too distant past, the discovery of a suspicious testicular mass was a virtual surgical emergency; urologists would often operate the same day as seeing the patient the first time to not allow any time for even a single cell to escape. Testicular cancer is now considered one of the most treatable and curable cancers with a survival rate greater than 90%. The disease-free survival rate for Stage II and III cancers is slightly lower, depending on the size of the tumor and when treatment is begun. All the websites agree that early detection and treatment is the key. When I spoke to Chris about his situation the one message he kept hitting again and again was for people to “check their junk”.
At the time of this posting Chris has been through a surgery, is undergoing the always pleasant chemotherapy and will likely have follow-up surgery in 4 months and 5 years of observation. This is a long term fight, but at least the odds are in his favor.
As you might expect, our warm and embracing community has reached out to Fazoom through letters, phone calls and social media to bolster his spirits and let him know that he’s not alone in his struggle. A host of cronies have gone the extra mile, guys like Proudlove, Jassim, Sandlin, Rafert and Wood have all shaved their heads in solidarity. If you’d like to see the growing assembly of glowing pale domes, head on over to Fazoom’s Facebook page to see the rogues gallery of supporting Lego fans.
Meanwhile the building never stops, even in the face of a nasty enemy like cancer, it’s only slowed down a bit. This is a photo of Mr. Giddens latest masterpiece in progress, an untitled starship with all the hallmarks of his style: great color blocking, beautiful curves and of course greebles like no other. I can’t wait to see it finished and to see the cancer finished along with it.
I think too often we wait until somebody is gone to say all the nice things we meant to say, so if Chris or his models have ever meant anything to you why not say it now? If nothing else, as Chris says “don’t be a punk, check your junk!”. For more information on testicular cancer including early detection, treatment and prognosis, check out The Testicular Cancer Resource Center or The American Cancer Society for more information.
I will leave you with Fazoom’s own words as he slugs his way through chemo with spirit and humor.
“I’ve never taken myself seriously and mostly that’s served me well, my health, well that’s getting some more attention lately for sure. In the time’s I have taken myself too seriously I’ve fallen on my face and learned to laugh at myself. My faith and family have always been the cornerstone of who I am and will continue to be. In these things I will never waiver. You have a choice to handle stuff… I’m gonna keep moving forward. My cancer is curable and I’m slogging along to get there. My heart issue is curable too and that will be a battle I swear to win…for my wife and my boy. But, this hobby we have, this creative outlet to express our inner geek, our tormented soul, our suppressed 9 year old, or whatever means something. It’s a language. One that we may not all speak equally or eloquently, but it’s a common bond. The worst it can do is become a way to belittle and besmirch someone’s attempt at trying. The best it can do is build up and better someone to become better. Keep the standard high without the ego. I’ve seen builders support me across many lines of ideals and ideas. It’s the bond. The bond of the builder and I’m grateful!“.