Father, firefighter-paramedic, CrossFitter, Coach. Amazing, generous, faithful, strong. The list of words used to describe Justin Herald seems to be rooted an endless stream of inspiration. Cancer fighter. That’s also on the list.
A 35 year old single father, Justin was diagnosed in February 2016 with Epithelioid Hemangioendothelioama (EHE), an rare form of cancer – there are about 100 people diagnosed with it in the world each year. Recently, doctors discovered signs of angio-sarcoma in Justin’s pathology - this is a similar form of cancer, but it’s more aggressive than the initial EHE. While the official diagnosis is fairly recent, Justin experienced an unusual shortness for a while. This led to a doctor’s visit and the eventual diagnosis – doctors believe that Justin has been fighting this cancer for over 2 years.
Since his diagnosis, Justin’s time in the gym has been limited – he travels to see specialists, and he gauges how he feels day to day. But these challenges have not broken his spirit – he credits his long time CrossFit participation with preparing him physically and mentally to fight the cancer. He has been CrossFitting since 2011 and started coaching in 2014. Recently, after taking a short hiatus to focus all his energy on fighting cancer, Justin started coaching again at Boulder Mountain CrossFit.
Part of the drive behind Justin’s fight is that he thinks “it is really important to show the community and everyone else battling with a disease that life doesn’t stand still and in [sic] weakness you can find your greatest strength. Not only has my faith played a large part in my life, the CrossFit community has been so compassionate, loving and fighting it all with me.” This faith and high value on community characterizes Justin as an Everyday Warrior.
Justin’s immediate support network includes his son, his parents, his sister, and his fiancé, Stephanie Miller. Stephanie praised Justin’s outlook, “…he faces life head on, has shown so much strength for his family and friends and maintains hope for the future.”
Beyond his immediate circle, Justin’s support expands massively and includes his church, his co-workers at the Fire Department as well as local CrossFit boxes near his home in Hailey, Idaho. Justin’s appreciation for his community is matched by the support that the community has offered him since his diagnosis. Justin had to stop working full time at the fire department, and in a massive act of generosity, Justin's fellow firefighters donated enough PTO, with some of them working for free, so Justin can get paid for as long as possible.
Additionally, There have been several fundraisers since Justin’s community learned of Justin’s fight including one on April 23 at CrossFit South Boise and one at Boulder Mountain CrossFit on May 21. The local community also put together a softball tournament.
Justin is currently taking immunotherapy, his treatment started just in recent weeks He and his family are hopeful.
While the battle ahead won’t be easy, Justin knows that the CrossFit community will be there to support him. He said, “it’s not the weight on the bar, it’s not your WOD time or how many rounds you got, it’s about coming together as human beings and making each other better.”
Justin’s advice to others battling: “Don’t ever lose hope or faith. People out there care and want to help and we should let them.”