“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade” — a hokey expression that most everyone knows, encouraging people to make the best of bad situations. It’s meant to remind us to think positive, even when times are tough, and treat real challenges as character-building opportunities.
However, it takes a special type of person to go from making lemonade to starting a lemonade stand — not just building character, but also building a movement. D. Anthony Evans is that type of person.
D. Anthony is an example of someone who did more than make the most of a bad situation — he went above and beyond, challenging himself to change his attitude and his life. Now he has dedicated himself to inspiring others to do the same.
And on a beautiful summer morning just a few weeks ago, we had the privilege of hearing D. Anthony’s powerful message about adding passion to the process, diving headfirst into difficult situations and coming out even stronger.
D. Anthony walked into the park, kettlebell in his left hand, a gallon of water in his right, and a balance board tucked under his arm. It was obvious that this was completely natural for him. He greeted us warmly, and quickly started helping us move chairs and a table into the park. That too looked completely natural.
Once our group was assembled, he began telling us his story:
D. Anthony was born with Neurofibromatosis (NF), a rare genetic condition in which dangerous tumors grow on nerve tissue. His mother worked tirelessly to help her son cope and remind him that he was beautiful too, just like anybody else. With his mother’s encouragement, D. Anthony pursued his favorite pastime: basketball.
But when his mother passed away, his dreams of pursuing basketball were cut short, his health declined, and he began to doubt himself and his ability to overcome his disease. In 2012, his tumors, which had started benign, became malignant, resulting in Malignant Peripheral Nerve Sheath Tumors (MPNST), an aggressive form of cancer. His doctor told him that he had only six months to live, and that he needed to “get his affairs in order.”
At first, D. Anthony didn’t accept the treatment solutions doctors recommended. He didn’t want to go to group therapy. But after he started putting things in perspective, he began to realize that there was still hope. He started going to group therapy sessions, and the stories he heard there added to his growing determination to overcome his condition and help others do the same.
In addition to undergoing nine invasive surgeries and the removal of 325 tumors, D. Anthony took on a plant-based diet (at the suggestion of his aunt), a positive mindset, and rigorous exercise. His belief in exercise especially as a key means of battling cancer has growing support from some doctors who specialize in cancer treatment. Researchers are now studying the impact of exercise on the health of cancer patients.
Today, four years after a dire warning from his doctor, D. Anthony is not just a survivor, but a “sur-thriver,” as Drew calls him. As the kettlebell and balancing board suggested, he has continued to “train to live,” as he describes it. He demonstrated for us his remarkable physical strength, tossing the kettlebell from one hand to the other, while balancing on the board. A couple brave volunteers even gave it a shot!
He’s also shown the same commitment to eating a plant-based diet. And with the help of Chef Dave Choi, he helps others do the same, as part of his foundation, called “Cheri Inspires,” named after his mother, who is still his inspiration.
Through Cheri Inspires, D. Anthony brings healthy meals prepared by Chef Dave Choi to children suffering from cancer and undergoing chemotherapy, particularly those who live in food deserts on Chicago’s South and West Sides.
Along with nutritious meals, D. Anthony provides encouragement to these children, who often need someone to remind them that they are beautiful, just as his mother told him.
This kind of inspiration has a huge impact, not only on the children fighting cancer, but on everyone who hears his message — music is even being written about it. Our group was no exception.
“D. Anthony shares his story of challenge, perseverance and glorious victory in a manner that equally inspires and educates the audience,” said Dr. Jessica Hehmeyer, a functional medicine physician and friend of 3Points who attended the event. “His faith and dedication to positively impact all whom he encounters is a gift to behold.”
Kevin Krumm, a managing partner at Objective Paradigm, also weighed in. “It’s so easy to get bogged down by the daily hustle, which is why it’s critical to disconnect sometimes and focus on the big picture,” he said. “D. Anthony’s story is an important reminder to take time to reflect and start meeting life’s challenges with optimism and determination.”
Although his condition is rare, and his story is unique, D. Anthony Evans is nevertheless someone we all could emulate. He’s an example of someone who learned to approach his circumstances proactively, facing them with passion and resolve. He changed his life when life was trying to change him.
How does that apply to us? Well, I’d say it boils down to this: often, when we’re faced with challenges, we’ll take the easy way out and accept them. We roll with the punches. But D. Anthony’s story reminds us that we can do more than that — we can use those negative circumstances as motivation to change our lives, rather than letting those circumstances drag us down. We can adapt, rather than just accept.
Sounds a little better than just turning lemons into lemonade, right?
Check out D. Anthony Evans for yourself on CBS or on his social accounts: YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. If you’re interested in hearing him speak at your next event, please contact Drew at firstname.lastname@example.org and he’ll put you in touch.
Thanks to all our friends who joined us for this beautiful day. Special thanks to the Alliance Française for providing us with chairs and a table, and to the Chicago Park District for giving us access to beautiful Washington Square Park.