Craig Petrocelli II

Hello and welcome to my fundraising page!

I am incredibly honored to be running the London marathon this year with the British Skin Foundation in honor and loving memory of Connor - a person so incredibly important to me. Connor helped me become who I am today, taught me how to love, be myself, and live life in all the fullest of ways. Below is our story - a compilation of both Connor’s journey and also the ways he brought joy to my life and continues to do so to this day. Thank you so much in advance to anyone who reads this story, joins this journey, and is able to support my fundraising efforts. Writing this page hasn’t been an easy task for me, and I am so appreciative of those around me who love and support me through this process.

Connor and I met what would have been 10 years ago, in 2009 and our first years in high school. From different schools, different groups, and different lives friends brought us together as they were convinced we were destined to meet. At age 14 I didn’t know quite who I was and was navigating new territory growing up, accepting myself, coming out, and blossoming into the person I wanted to be. From the first moment I met Connor I knew he was different. He had accomplished so much of what I was going through right then. Connor accepted himself, those around him, and was passionate about love, happiness, uniqueness, and personality. I can’t remember the time between our first meeting and being in a relationship because it felt like we knew each other all along.

Over the course of our high school years, Connor and I grew together. We were so fortunate to go through many years of a real relationship at such a young age surrounded by our best friends and families. Of course we had our ups and downs, but what I remember so fondly is that we were always on an adventure and we never had a dull moment. Connor helped me take every opportunity I could to experience something new and see life in a new way, something I was so lucky to learn how to do at such a young age and carry with me still every day.

Cancer always seemed a far away “it could never happen to me” factor in my life, until it did. Connor was diagnosed with malignant melanoma during our senior year of high school and it felt like life flipped a switch and said it’s time to grow up. Connor spent senior year fighting the first part of this battle as we watched and supported every step. After 2 surgeries, over 300 stitches, multiple biopsies, skin grafts, and reconstructive surgery, things seemed to be okay. Connor was deemed cancer free and was able to graduate high school, enroll in college, and continue on discovering life.

Throughout our first years of college, things were difficult. Connor went to school at Washington State University and I chose to head to Marymount Manhattan College in New York, what felt like a world away. Although we went through the typical “long distance relationship” struggles, there were times at which I knew something wasn’t quite right. In October of 2013, Connor came to visit me in New York for Halloween. Just before he came or around the time he arrived Connor texted his mom Tracy a photo that he'd taken of his eyelid that showed a suspicious looking black spot. They immediately called his oncologist and had an appointment scheduled. Until that point, Connor felt fine though he had experienced occasional nausea and somebody pain, but nothing that stopped him from his daily activities. When he arrived in New York I quickly saw the pain increase, the activities decrease, and things start to unravel fast.

On November 1st Connor’s family traveled to NYC where his mom Tracy would be running the 2013 NYC Marathon. During dinner their first night Connor became so sick that the following morning we went to emergency room. It was there that the first CT scan was done - and it showed all of the tumors in Connor's body. They immediately returned to California and went directly to the emergency room from the airport. After a quick review of his CT scan and the report we brought from the NYC hospital - Connor was admitted and we began the long journey of battling stage 4, the final stage, of metastatic melanoma. Connor's melanoma had not only returned, but it had taken over his entire body. When he was re-diagnosed it had already spread to every organ in his body except his lungs and brain. It had even spread into his bones and into his left eye. We immediately started treatment and Connor was showing signs of improvement after about 5 weeks.

Connors life was and still is filled with so many wonderful people supporting the journey. All of these amazing friends and family have accounts of what happened over the next two months, some of the memories of a visit to the hospital and a laugh, others painful memories of every moment and every day working through the fight. My memory is spotted and hazy at times, but also often clearer than ever. I spent the end of the year flying between New York and California as often as I could, usually every other week, to sleep in the hospital with Connor and his family. It feels like we tried everything. Every medication, every treatment, every Harry Potter audiobook, and every ounce of positivity and hope we could muster up.

Unfortunately, while treatment was able to attack the melanoma in his body, it could not cross the brain barrier and protect his brain. On January 1, 2014, Connor had a seizure that would take hours to stabilize and it was determined on that day that treatment was no longer an option. Connor never opened his eyes again. 

Through this journey and following Connors passing, my life changed. The person who I loved so deeply and who helped me become the person I wanted to be was gone, and I didn’t know what to do next. Grieving seemed a foreign concept and I didn’t know how to do it, so I pushed on with the same life I was living and tried to make it as ordinary and continuous as possible. I am so grateful for Connor’s friends who are also mine, and for Connor’s family who I feel like are my own, for getting me through and to the place I am in my life today.

Five years later and here we are - running the London marathon and raising money for an incredible cause and in an incredible honor. Thank you so much for taking the time to read this story, and for any support you can give. In loving memory of Connor, and in strength with those who have lost someone they love as I have.

"If you ask me what I came to do in this world, I will answer you: I am here to live out loud" ~ Emile Zola 

Much love,
Craig


About the foundation:

“The British Skin Foundation are the only UK charity that raises money to fund research into all types of skin diseases, including skin cancer. Sixty percent of British people currently suffer from or have suffered with a skin disease at some point during their lifetime. Whilst some skin conditions are manageable, others are severe enough to kill. We are here to help change that by raising money for vital research to help find cures and treatments for common skin conditions like eczema or acne, through to potential killers like malignant melanoma. Founded in 1996, the British Skin Foundation has supported 400 research projects and awarded £16,000,000 in funding across all skin diseases. Whilst we are dedicated to raising money for research, we also aim to raise awareness of skin diseases in the wider community. We're committed to educating people about the different skin conditions, helping to reduce stigma and promote understanding.”

Craig Petrocelli II