Now in his third season on Gary Andersen's staff in Corvallis, Oregon State's strength and conditioning coach Evan Simon is just happy to still be on this earth.
This weekend marked the one-year anniversary where the 38-year-old married father of two nearly died on the operating table at OHSU. The Beaver continues to dam cancer and spread motivation to those fighting the dastardly disease.
"When it hit me the hardest was actually, probably this past Sunday and only because unfortunately, it was very publicized that actor Bill Paxton passed away. With him passing away, they said complications of surgery, to where to be fair, the hardest part of my surgery was, I almost passed away in the surgery too due to complications," Simon said.
Simon spent the last calendar year trying to feel like the man he once was.
"This past year almost didn't happen. Where I stopped breathing during the surgery and they had to figure out how to get me to breathe again through a breathing tube and that took a long time. My blood pressure shot up to 240 over 194," he said.
The head strength and conditioning coach for Beaver football survived because he took notice of an abnormality on his neck before it was too late.
"'Hey, what do you think about this bump right here?' Because I had had it for a long time but it grew significantly," said Simon. "Just to think if I didn't do that, where the surgeon that did my surgery at OHSU pointed out, their biggest concern was it got into the bloodstream and went everywhere. It was very, very close to doing that."
Twelve months post-surgery and treatment removing cancer in his thyroid, chest and neck, Simon pushes through every waking hour with a smile.
"Right now, it's just getting adjusted to life without a thyroid," he said. "I think anyone that has gone through any kind of thyroid cancer can attest to that. From a health standpoint, where I am more than thankful beyond words for, doctors say, things couldn't look more perfect for you."
Simon displays both outer and inner strength – dog-tired be damned.
"My energy levels usually break down very quickly over the course of a day and general body aches and pains are significant and they are every day. But that is a small price to pay too for the opportunity that I have and not having to really worry about, will I be able to sit there and be a dad to my girls for an extremely long time and a husband to my wife for a long time? I'll live with those pains and tiredness every day if I have to," he said.
And he will. Often sapped of stamina, there really can't be any lazy excuses under Simon's watch.
"Where the joke will be, guys will, 'Oh coach this hurts' or that hurts. 'I feel like this today' or 'I feel like that.' I'll be like, 'oh, I can only imagine where it probably feels like if you had your face cut from ear to ear and then pulled up and stapled to your ears and had like a long 13-hour procedure. That's probably what it feels like, right?'" Simon said. "They're like, 'All right coach, I know what you mean.' They go right back to, 'I'm good!'"
It's comic relief out of the nearly unthinkable.
"I really don't have any feeling in my neck, so the best part is when I am with my kids and if they are messing around and hitting me in my neck, I don't feel it," he said.
Simon serves as a positive mentor for anyone fighting for their life or just getting through the daily grind.
"Make sure that you make every moment a moment that you can remember so when the day comes that you aren't around, where hopefully you can look down from above and say, 'Know what? I don't regret anything that happened in my life and I maximized each opportunity that I had,'" he said.
Simon also draws on the power of positivity.
"Make sure those thoughts are prevalent and go through your mind because that will make a bad day a great day," he said.
Simon has been with Coach A since his defensive coordinator days at Utah, then joined him as head strength coach at Utah State, Wisconsin and then Oregon State.
This May, Simon will be an inductee as a master strength and conditioning coach by the Collegiate Strength and Conditioning Coaches Association.
The Beavs' spring game will be next Saturday, March 18.
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