March 29, 2013/ / INTERVIEWS/ Comments: 26

photo: bill bottriell

photo: bill bottriell

Skateboarding in Buffalo, New York is extremely difficult. The weather is terrible, the city is falling apart, and the few skate spots the city has are some of the roughest and most difficult in America. Simply put, skateboarding in Buffalo is a battle.

Dave Weaver and the rest of the guys from Sunday skateshop are at the center of this battle. They are out there and fighting the cold, the snow, and the ice everyday so they can keep the scene alive. Weaver’s story is particularly interesting, because he has also been fighting brain cancer just to keep himself alive. Nearly two years ago Weaver had a brain tumor surgically removed and today he is in chemotherapy, but he hasn’t let this slow him down or take him out of the scene. While quietly pushing through this illness with the support of the local skate community and his girlfriend (who has also battled cancer) he is still out there skating and even put out a new part in Sunday’s video “Whatever the Weather.”

The Scene

Buffalo is located in the Rust Belt of America and it is one of the hardest places to skate. The city is overflowing with poverty and crime, the buildings are decaying, the weather is frigid, and there aren’t many spots. How do you manage skating in this environment?
Skating is really difficult considering how few spots we have, and some of the best spots were knobbed and torn down, which makes it even harder. We’ve had this little DIY ledge spot for the past six years and they’ve been trying to put a casino in its place so they keep tearing down all the ledges and obstacles.

The city doesn’t generate much income so investment in new infrastructure isn’t high on the priority list. The long winters are difficult to deal with and the spots we do have are pretty janky. Luckily, JP (owner of Sunday) has generously built a private mini-ramp that’s all birch and amazing. Our local indoor park is pretty kooky so I think the mini-ramp is our saving grace during our 6 long winter months.

Your shop sponsor, Sunday seems to be the glue that holds the Buffalo skate scene together. Why do you think this is?
JP owns it. He is the hardest working skateboarder, with the best advice and vision not just for skateboarding but really the entire city. He’s lived here a long time and he invests everything he’s got to fostering an all-inclusive scene future generations. He’s a father figure to a lot of us and even though that brings some conflict, it’s all love and Sunday is always going to be the place where anybody who actually cares about where their money goes is going to get their new board or even just have coffee and hang out there with JP. The shop is kind of like an orphanage some days. It’s great. JP is always dolling out life lessons. We’ve all been scolded by him but it’s only because he cares.

photo: bill bottriel

photo: bill bottriel

The Illness

While studying abroad in China you found out you had a brain tumor, what alerted you to the fact that you were ill?
I was actually visiting my sister in South Korea between studying in China and Australia when I found out. It was January, and the day before I had ran a few miles and went to a hot yoga session with my sister. That day I woke up late and met her at our favorite coffee shop to make plans for when she got out of work and I took some sips of a latte and had a seizure. I woke up in an ambulance, and they took me to the hospital. They gave me a CT scan and the one girl in the whole hospital that spoke some English told me, “You have brain tumor.”

What was your first thought when she said this to you?
I didn’t believe her.

What kind of treatment did you have to go through during your battle with cancer?
I’m currently on my 22nd month of chemo: I take 140 mg every night for 21 days then a break for 7 days. That whoops my ass. The stuff I take has like mustard gas derivatives and kills every cell in your body, especially the cells that replicate most frequently like your immune cells and bone marrow. Some days I can actually feel the flex in my bones. I did a full month of radiation and have had Gamma Knife Radiation surgery twice. I also get injections of this shit called Avastin that supposedly triggers the release of a protein that tells my body to stop building vessels around any abnormal cells to basically starve the cancer out. Trying to hit it from as many angles as possible so my girlfriend who is also a survivor has hooked up all types of homeopathic herbs, infrared saunas, nebulizers, etc… to supplement that shit.

”There’s just a lot of responsibility added when your life is threatened by this unstoppable bitch of a disease.”

After you get these injections how does your body react?
I hardly notice the infusions, it’s the chemotherapy that just wears the body down.

So did you and your girlfriend meet during treatment?
It’s a funny story. Buffalo is a really small place. I had lost my phone, and I was borrowing my friend Dave’s Blackberry. He had hit on her and gotten her number. I accidentally kept pocket dialing and texting her nonsense having no idea who she was. I met her at a random party months later and hit it off talking about the movie Gummo and she needed a Spanish tutor, so I tried to help out.

How has dating another cancer survivor helped you through your treatment?
She and her mother have been angels. When she was 3 the doctors told her mother she had two weeks to live. Long story short, her mom force fed her wheatgrass shots and all types of herbs to keep her alive and she just turned 23 two months ago. Her mother ended up making a 20 year career out of homeopathy so my treatment has been very integrated. On top of my FDA approved crap I’ve seen shamans, done theta healing, nebulized colloidal silver, I just did acupuncture for the first time, the list of far out eastern treatments goes on. I back it all though. She’s got our apartment looking like a health center with lazer therapy pads, I grow wheatgrass, we have an Ozonator, I juice daily, and she even hooked me up with my own infrared sauna!

photo: marcus sears

photo: marcus sears

The Next Step

Returning to life after cancer treatment can be difficult for many people. Many young cancer survivors report participating in fewer activities than their peers, they often feel isolated, and they often don’t feel ready to return to “normal life,” but you are already partying again, you’re killing it on your board, and you’re doing well in college. Why do you think your battle with cancer wasn’t able to slow you down?
I feel really lucky even though it’s been a very hard ride. I guess I never lost my mental focus and ambition. I battle through all the nausea and fatigue to accomplish whatever I feel I have to do. I’ve completed my internship, worked a job, and maintained this little DJ gig on the side. I can’t really sit still for too long. I was so close to being done with school that I felt I could still handle it, so I’m just finishing now. I’ve definitely cut drinking alcohol out for the most part lately just because my health still comes first. It’s incredibly difficult because ALL of my friends still do what they do so I’ve definitely gone to the bar with a water bottle out of boredom just because I still love to at least witness the aforementioned hijinx, if not create it.

Few of us encounter such a serious illness. What have you taken away from this experience?
Some people say it has made me a more humble person. I’m not sure what I think of that statement really. If anything I just had to grow up. My lifestyle is so opposite from how it was before. I went from party animal to paleo diet health freak. I feel guilty when I eat salami now. There’s just a lot of responsibility added when your life is threatened by this unstoppable bitch of a disease. There’s all kinds of paper work, insurance, and medical garbage I have to take care of but it’s for my own benefit so I can’t say I’m at all mad about it. It’s just a big perspective change really. At first I felt so scared but now I’ve seen the worst and every day is winding so maintaining PMA (positive mental attitude) is critical.

Mostly that coupled with traveling can only broaden your perspective and open your heart. I’ve witnessed so much suffering that regardless of the crappy cards I’ve been dealt I’m eternally grateful for everything and still can’t find much to complain about.

photo: marcus sears

photo: marcus sears

Do you feel more hesitant when you skate now or are you more willing to just go for it?
I do feel like I am more cautious now. I’m a lot more mortal now than I ever was, which is harsh. I did try that kickflip post-cancer, but looking back I must have been crazy. Half the medical community is trying to understand, prevent, and cure this disease to stop it from killing me. I’m just trying not to kill myself. In my mind I’ll always be 16 though. It is a constant mind-body conflict unfortunately. My family and doctors always laugh that I still skateboard but of course nobody gets it.

Do you find it hard to relate to the crew sometimes now that you have distanced yourself from that lifestyle?
I have certainly felt more distant though, indeed. They go out, drink, smoke, and I stay in and smoke weed and listen to Brian Wilson or Bob Dylan. Music is a great escape.

”I only want to help the world and have some fun, otherwise I don’t really care to live.”

It’s maddening how dumb people are when we dull ourselves to the level of dumb beasts as Hunter S. would say. At night, I’ve noticed how dumb my friends and I get but luckily I’m aware of their bottled handicap. I’ve definitely hardened on some people who are just obtuse. I’ve released a lot of anger on ignorant people and of course I can’t handle complainers. And now, I’m a lot less fearful of people so I have been mouthing off a bit more. Luckily, I have the best of the best of friends so I’m usually very content.

You’re about to graduate from Buffalo State College with a double major in Business Marketing and Asian Studies. What are your plans after graduation?
I grew up protecting the deserts of southern Utah, so I’d like to continue doing some sort of environmental conservation. I only want to help the world and have some fun, otherwise I don’t really care to live.

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  1. buffalowojo

    December 5, 2013 5:46 pm

    R.I.P. dave.

  2. Adam

    December 5, 2013 5:57 pm

    Rest in Peace Dave.

  3. Bonita Krull

    December 5, 2013 7:34 pm

    I want to know this brave individual. A beautiful attitude, and a great zest for life. I would like to meet him, and my prayers are with him. Cancer is a horrendous disease, but someday we will beat it. My husband had a 13 year battle with leukemia, he was a brave soldier, but lost his battle. Hoping for the cure soon!

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