Fazoom vs. Cancer

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”.

First CT.  no superpowers.

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.

she aint much kid....

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!“.

10 comments on “Fazoom vs. Cancer

  1. Lego Junkie

    I haven’t had the chance to meet Chris, or really even do much talking through the interwebz with him, but without knowing it, his builds have been inspiring me since I joined the community four years ago.

    I’ve always seen his SHIPs floating around on the Classic Space forums, and they’d always pop up in various “Lego SHIP” google searches. I’ve never known who the builder was though, since I’d always just ogle at the picture, and not take the time to find the builder.

    So thank you for sharing Keith!
    I’m much obliged to you Mr. Giddens, for much of my spacey inspiration!
    We’re cheering for you Chris!

  2. si-mocs

    I had the pleasure of meeting Chris @ BFVA this year, and it’s rare that someone can have such a profound impact in such a short period of time. As Keith stated Chris is plain awesome – ridiculously hilarious, super friendly and was nice enough to show me the fun features in each of his build. His attention to detail (“You can’t see the greebles, but it’s there”) willingness to share and teach – I got to spend a few hours with Chris sitting on the floor picking through vendor bins of misc pieces, and he would show me all the cool pieces and why / how you could use them … He’s the embodiment of what makes the LEGO community great.

    God speed Chris, we’re all rooting for you!

    Also Chris makes the best swoosh sounds in the entire community.

  3. Siercon and Coral

    We also want to add our voice to the masses. Getting to meet Chris this year was indeed a highlight. As other have said, and we can only reiterate, his humor, humility, and impact on the Lego community are incredible. Beyond the Lego community, he also has a huge effect on those around him. What is so nice to see, is that as “Lego Friends” we truly only have a small window into the depth, joy, and service he displays throughout his life. Thanks for giving us a peek into a life filled with joyful endurance.

    About the MOC… probably one of our most favorite Lego ships of all time. We cant wait for you to finish it in time :)

    Thanks Keith for the post!

  4. Fazoom

    Thanks Keith for this and humble honest thanks to all for the kind comments. Note if this treatment doesn’t work, my zombie cyborg replicant will rise, become maniacal, and squish you to oblivion. ;-)

  5. Magnus

    Great writing Keith, and of course am sending all my positive thoughts to Chris, who I had the pleasure to reconnect with most recently at BrickFair this past summer, when he took me on a tour of his fleet of MOCs.

    You’ll rarely hear me say this unironically, but, well here goes…


  6. Brad

    Chris’ PCS fleet was my first introduction to AFOLdom. I was dumbstruck by his excellent ships! I’ve never had a chance to meet him, but I’m thrilled to hear that he is apparently as awesome in-person as he is online.

    Chris, I wish you and your family all the best! Good luck!

  7. Dan Jassim

    Hey Keith, very nice write-up. Everything hits home for me as well. I think we’re all very lucky to know Chris in one way or another. For me it’s only been online with Chris but hopefully someday we’ll actually meet, like you and I did (like 10 years ago right??? And I probably was a tool huh?). It’s funny that, out of everything there is to admire in that guy, his humor and humility stands out the most. Anyway, thanks for posting this, man. :-)

Comments are closed.