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Patient Spotlight: Rashad Hayes

Rashad Hayes

Q: Why did you choose the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at UAB to partner with you on this journey?

A: I started working at UAB in 2020. I witnessed firsthand how everyone went above and beyond to care for their patients. It was a no-brainer to transfer my care to UAB. It’s been the best decision I’ve ever made.

Q: What has been the most challenging part of your experience?

A: The fear of the unknown, at times. Sometimes, I have what I call “human moments”, when I allow myself to be nervous about the CT/PET scan. It’s challenging facing those negative thoughts, but I learn to embrace the challenge and strengthen my faith.

Q: What is the biggest win you’re excited to share?

A: For the first time in seven years, I finally reached the milestone of nine-month surveillance. In my mind, it’s a win because for nine months I get to feel like I’m the healthiest person on the planet.

Q: What is your favorite hobby?

A: Motivational speaking. Although, that hobby is starting to open a lot of doors to some cool opportunities. Growing up, my teachers would say that I talked too much. Now I get paid to speak lol. Pretty cool if you ask me.

Q: What is the next place on your travel bucket list?

A: Bora Bora

Q: What is your favorite TV show?

A: “Iron Chef”

Rashad Hayes - The Great American Speak Off

Q: What is a fun fact that not many people know about you?

A: I competed in a pilot TV show called “The Great American Speak Off”. Out of 27,000 participants, I was one of 150 who competed in the semi-finals in Miami.

Q: What advice would you give to those just beginning their cancer journey?

A: You may have cancer, but cancer doesn’t have you. Always strive to find the positive in everything you do.

Q: Is there anyone at the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at UAB whom you would like to recognize?

A: Dr. Amit Mehta and his team! They are always so friendly and excited to see me. It feels like I have a team that genuinely cares about me. They are amazing.

Q: Outside of the medicine, appointments, and treatments, was there anything that helped you through the emotional and mental challenges that cancer brought to your life?

A: Faith and purpose. I was only 22 when I learned of my disease. I didn’t understand why it was happening to me. However, I quickly realized that it was happening for me and not against me. I feel as if cancer allowed me to find my purpose. Before cancer, my life was dedicated to football and just being an athlete. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without my cancer diagnosis.

Not only is Rashad Hayes a patient at The O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center, he is also an employee. See his answers about his career below.

Q: How or why did you choose this career?

A: I choose this career because I wanted to become a light for those going through similar battles. I was only 22 when I was diagnosed with follicular lymphoma. I went from being an athlete to fighting for my life. I made a promise to myself that I would use my experiences to help others. Cancer may always be a part of my life, but I refuse to allow it to define my life.

Q: What is the most challenging part of your job? 

A: The most challenging part is leaving work at work. As a social worker, I get a chance to bond and meet some amazing patients from all over the world. I wish you all could hear some of the stories that I get to hear. I’m honored to know that patients trust me enough to share their most vulnerable parts of life with me.

Q: What is the most rewarding part of your job?

A: The patients are by far the best. Many of our patients are here for six weeks. By the end of their treatment, you would think that I’m a part of their family. It’s truly an amazing feeling.

Q: What is your favorite quote to live by?

A: “Don’t burn your cake.” It’s a reminder to stay focused on the present day – to make the best of every opportunity.

Q: For those seeking a career like yours, what would you tell them makes the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at UAB special?

A: It’s special because of the genuine love and concern for the patients. You can’t beat that. I’ve personally been to a few cancer centers myself as a patient, and the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at UAB is indeed a special place.

Q: How have you grown your career at the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at UAB?

A: I realized that social work is more than just advocating for the patient. It also includes helping other specialties understand the patient’s situations as well, in order to create the best experience for the patients.

Q: What or who inspires you?

A: My greatest inspiration is my wife. She is the reason why I can’t quit or give up. She always believes in my dreams, and for that I desire to be the best at whatever I do.

Q: What do you do on a typical day off?

A: Typically when I’m off, it’s because I have a speaking engagement. Motivational speaking is something I truly love, especially when I get to use my story to help inspire others. I have been blessed to speak at some pretty cool places. One day, I’ll be known as one of the best speakers in the world.

Q: What is one accomplishment you are especially proud of?

A: Being in remission! I learn to celebrate the little things, and I no longer take health for granted. Some days are better than others, but I’m grateful to make an impact on the lives of many.

Q: Before working at the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at UAB, what was the most unusual or interesting job you’ve had?

A: The most interesting job I ever had was being a barista at Starbucks. You can learn a lot about someone by their Starbucks order.

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