Ed. Note—we're immensely proud to work with Jayson Williams of the Fxck Cancer Triathlon Team, and today we present our second annual Fxck Cancer kit. A portion of all proceeds from this collection go to supporting the Fxck Cancer Foundation, a non-profit providing support and experiences for those battling the terrible disease. We spoke with the team's founder about how the triathlon aspect of the foundation came to be.
“If you’re offended by our name,” says Jayson Williams, head of the Fxck Cancer Triathlon Team, “then you haven’t been hurt by this disease yet.” The San Diego native, husband, father, and biomedical engineer, on the other hand, has been touched repeatedly by cancer. “In 2015 my boss came to me and said ‘ummmm, you don’t really look the way you did when we hired you.’” Post-college, post-sports, Williams had put on close to one-hundred pounds. Working for a cardiovascular bio-med firm, his employer had a literal stake in his well-being. “She told me to watch out for an email that night.” Sure enough, that evening he received an email confirmation that he hadn’t initiated: You’re signed up for Ironman 70.3 Honu!”
“I lost eighty pounds in three months,” Williams recounts. “My boss—the one who’d signed me up for the race—coached me to my first triathlon finish. And then, just like that, her daughter died the next day of throat cancer.” Williams didn’t know what to do—he’d just just completed a remarkable self-transformation, and what’s more, he’d found his first 70.3 easy. “I wanted to honor my boss’s daughter. I got a custom paint job that featured the Fxck Cancer logo and signed up for Ironman Tahoe. I wanted to honor her memory, and to race for somebody who couldn’t race for herself.”
The disease, though, wasn’t done with him—not by a long shot. Williams’ boss/coach got him to the Tahoe start line ready and in one piece, a remarkable achievement for someone still new to the sport. Tahoe 2015 made for one of the more difficult days in triathlon—temps hovering around 30 degrees to start, only warming up to the high 50s by midday. Williams’ coach had hoped to be there with him, but called earlier that week and said she’d come down with a cold and couldn’t attend. Williams raced for her daughter, proudly displaying the Fxck Cancer logo painted on the head tube and seat post of his Argon 18. He finished in 14:15, no small accomplishment for his first Ironman on a difficult course on a difficult day. He picked up his morning clothes bag, retrieved his phone, and got a call from his coach's husband. “Jason, your coach would have really liked to have been there and to see you finish, but I’m sorry to tell you that she died of a brain tumor last night.”
“I just broke down and started crying, right there at the finish line,” Williams remembers. He went home from the race and started sending emails each month to the Fxck Cancer foundation, an organization founded in 2007 to remember and honor the life of Brandon Sean McGuinness, a “surfer, skater, and snowboarder who was always looking for a good time.” By late 2015, that organization was in full-growth mode itself, and Williams’ emails went unanswered for some time. But he persisted, and eventually that squeaky wheel got greased. In May 2017 he got an email back from them apologizing for their radio silence, and asking him how they could help make his vision happen. “From there it was just total hurry-up mode,” Williams recalls. “I had some contacts on the Ride Triathlon Team out of Encinitas, California, and I knew some people from my contacts in the sport. I called all of them and lined up like thirty sponsors in less than two weeks. I wanted to make sure all my ducks were in a row before I pitched them. We got a kit designed and opened applications in July of 2017. I expected 15 or 20 people to apply, but instead we got over 100.”
Then Heather Jackson and Wattie Ink. got involved. Williams had already contracted the San Diego-based company to produce his team’s kits, and he’d ridden his bike to their Vista, California offices to hand-sign the proofs. “The factory is literally down the street,” Williams says. “I was signing off on the artwork, and Wattie introduced himself, saw the kit, asked what we were doing, and said he wanted to get involved. Heather took a picture of herself running with one of our Fxck Cancer hats, and our application numbers leapt overnight from 120 to over 400,” Williams recalled. “Then they launched their pink Urban Assault kit as a fundraiser for us last fall, and things really went through the roof. It hasn’t stopped there. We have close to 600 people on the team today, a year later, and expect over 1200 in 2019, all of them wearing a Wattie Ink. kit. I cannot thank Sean and Heather enough—I feel like everything that has happened has happened due to their support.”
Today, Williams tries to keep up with the hundreds of emails that flood his inbox every day. He still works a full-time job in the medical industry, educating doctors about a specific type of pacemaker. He and his wife chase a small child around, and he gets up at 4am each day to get in whatever training he can do for the sport he loves. “I want to race for others,” he tells me. “I just did Superfrog 70.3 with one of our team members, someone with stage four cancer. We swam together, rode together, and then ran/walked together. It took us almost eight hours, but whatever, we finished. That’s the kind of thing I train for—so I can be present for people who are fighting this disease.
“What I want more than anything,” he tells me towards the end of our call, “Is to buy a van and fill it with medical equipment—MRI machines, CTscans, blood testing equipment, prostrate exams, mammogram devices—and drive it around and park it in front of, say, Coachella. These kids going to music festivals—they’re focused on having a good time, and they’re not necessarily thinking about their long-term health. I want to change that. If you call me and you tell me you’ve been diagnosed with cancer, I’m gonna feel for you, and I'm going to tell you that our team is here for you. I'm constantly thinking 'if people were more educated about early detection, could some of these cases be caught earlier?' So my dream is to drive around the country and educate people about early detection, prevention. And THAT’s what I hope all of this amounts to: more people getting healthy early, so we can tell cancer to fuck off.”