Driven to Live
Wildflower Blog

Driven to Live

Wildflower Announcer, Sean English Battles Terminal Cancer 
By Julie Moss & Beth Buzza

Recently, the Wildflower announce team’s Julie Moss and Beth Buzza had a chance to sit down over coffee and talk about the upcoming Wildflower Experience and how excited they are to be heading back to Lake San Antonio for the best weekend in triathlon. Wildflower has always been unique with its Woodstock vibe and grassroots approach to triathlon. Wildflower focuses equally on the breakout, star-making, performances of our pros as it does calling first-time athletes across the line. The announce team gets to make every Wildflower athlete feel like a star!

This year they have the privilege of working with one of the best announce teams ever assembled: Sean English, Whit Raymond, Pepper Daniels, Victor Plata, Dean Harper, Emily Cocks, and Michellie Jones. Out of this impressive lineup, one announcer personifies the star-making quality of Wildflower like no other…Sean English. 

If you’ve been to Wildflower in the recent past, you will certainly recognize his voice (and perhaps his floral, fleece, Fuzzy Duds shorts, his flat-brimmed hat, dark sunglasses and ever-changing facial hair). Sean’s voice has been waking up the campground with morning announcements, welcoming athletes to the Wildflower transition area and the finish line for almost a decade. And he’s been doing it with boundless energy and enthusiasm. More energy and enthusiasm, in fact, than most people can ever hope to have. Having worked with Sean at Wildflower (and a number of other races) for most of his announcing years, we can tell you that his energy is an all-day thing. The energy and enthusiasm he shares with you on the mic is the same energy and enthusiasm he shares with friends, co-workers and even strangers when he steps away from the mic. That energy and enthusiasm, however, has been significantly tested in the past couple years. Sean, unfortunately, has been given a terminal diagnosis.

During Wildflower 2016 as the Announce Team was settling into our trailer. Sean immediately shared his passion for the 22 Pushup Challenge, sometimes called the 22KILL Pushup Challenge, involving pressing out twenty-two pushups a day for twenty-two days to promote awareness for veteran suicide prevention along with honoring military service members and veterans. Sean preceded to hand over his phone so the inaugural set of twenty-two pushups could be recorded and posted to his FB page. Sean really loves to entertain, a quality that makes for a great announcer and emcee.  He started out his pushups strong but then, feeling pain in his back, began to struggle. As announcers, we immediately went into support mode, shouting our encouragement to get him across the finish line. Sean could be a bit mellow dramatic so we wondered if his exaggerated efforts were due to lack of preparation more than pain. After watching that first tortuous display, we knew Sean wouldn’t quit but also knew it was going be ugly. None of us knew just how ugly it was about to get.

As many athletes do, Sean attributed that pain to overtraining and, possibly, some sort of disc issue. Unfortunately, his pain continued to worsen and, by July of that year, it was excruciating. It took three weeks for Sean to get an MRI and in August 2016, as Sean was still in the middle of that diagnostic process, he was told that he had something more serious than a herniated disc and his scans were now being viewed live by a group of doctors. Within minutes of completing the MRI, he was informed that he had a tumor in his spine and it was most likely a very serious and aggressive form of cancer.

Sean was diagnosed with Stage 4 metastatic Kidney cancer and was given 3-5 years to live. Within days, Sean had surgery to remove the tumor that had grown inside the spinal canal and had fractured the L3 vertebrae. Since diagnosis in August of 2016 Sean has had 18 hours of surgery to reconstruct his spine and remove his kidney, had his lung collapse, undergone 3 rounds of Stereotactic radiation with 5-7 doses each round, been on target therapy/oral chemo for ten months, and most recently, because his treatments were no longer working, moved on to a new treatment, infusion immunotherapy. As a result of Sean’s surgeries and treatments he’s been very sick, and in pain for much of the past 18 months.

Sean has raced Wildflower, coached athletes to race Wildflower and his first year as an announcer was true to the Wildflower experience. We may have been assigned one of the Lynch trailers, but it was two to a bed with the low man (AKA Sean) sleeping on the floor in the living room. One of our superstar announce team members, Whit Raymond, was there and Sean was impressed with Whit’s announcing style and energy, they had met the previous year at Pacific Grove and hit it off. In fact, Sean will happily tell anyone who’s interested that Whit has had a very big influence on how he calls a finish line. Although the two are very different, Whit taught him to do the work and be a professional. Sean learned a great deal from Whit and attributes his success to Whit and all the race announcers that he’s had the privileged to work with. It has been several years since Whit has joined us in the finish tower at Wildflower, but we are excited “to announce” that he will be joining us thisMay. We are looking forward to having Whit and Sean, mentor and protégé, back together again. It’s something you definitely don’t want to miss. When you look up and see Sean in the announce tower, feel free to show him some love. It’s going to be an unforgettable year at Wildflower and we can’t wait to share the experience with you. 

“My favorite part of Wildflower is standing in the race announcer tower before the sun rises. It’s so quiet and I can take a moment to myself before things get crazy. Then I can’t wait to wake up the entire campground! From that moment, the energy is electric, from the very first swim wave at Lake San Antonio to the final finisher on Sunday. It’s really a humbling and amazing experience to be a small part of one of the oldest triathlons in the world!” – Sean English

Sean has helped to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for other charitable organizations and now Sean needs your help! All donations are welcome, big or small. They will go to cover his ever-mounting medical and living expenses.

The Talbert Family Foundation has arranged for Sean to receive 100% of your tax-deductible donations. Just follow the link below and fill out the form and please include Team Sean: http://talbertfamilyfoundation.org/pages/DonateNow.html

 

 

 

 

 

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