Second cancer diagnosis doesn’t stop Soldier from competing at Warrior Games Challenge

By MaryTherese GriffinJune 2, 2023

DOD Warrior Games Challenge 2023
U.S. Army Sgt. Dalton Apodaca smiles during an interview at the 2023 Warrior Games Challenge, June 1, in San Diego, California. (DoD photo by MaryTherese Griffin) (Photo Credit: MaryTherese Griffin) VIEW ORIGINAL

SAN DIEGO - When faced with a second cancer diagnosis in eight years, Sgt. Dalton Apodaca says his faith is guiding him through once again. “A man will pick his path, but God will direct his steps,” he said with confidence.

We first introduced you to Apodaca in 2018 explaining his brain cancer diagnosis a few years earlier after a seizure. The good news was that after treatment, he was able to return to duty. However, his nine-centimeter tumor returned in February 2022. The horizontal construction engineer didn’t let that stop him. Apodaca is competing in San Diego at the 2023 Warrior Games Challenge with Team Army.

“I’m as healthy as can be all things considered, you’d never know I was going through treatment. I will be doing my fifth round of chemo while I’m here,” he said with a smile. He will do six cycles total of chemotherapy.

Before he could even think about competing to be on Team Army, Apodaca needed surgery which he had last summer.

“They got some of the tumor. The surgery was to improve quality of life, not longevity. I was actually awake during the surgery, but they stopped because my left vision was starting to go out,” he said.

While at the Fort Carson Soldier Recovery Unit he learned about adaptive sports and how they could improve his quality of life. His favorite sport to compete in is cycling.

“I grew up on a bike and even though I broke my femur bone in half when I was four from a bike fall, I got back up.” Apodaca continues to get back up and not let cancer smack him down. Competing on Team Army is good for his soul, and he says a little humility goes a long way.

“Wheelchair basketball is my second favorite adaptive sport. It’s interesting, fun, and humbling. I learned just because you’re good at basketball on your feet doesn’t mean you’re going to be good at basketball in a chair. It’s a whole different sport and challenging for sure.”

Going through a chemo treatment is challenging enough but doing it while at the Warrior Games Challenge isn’t something Apodaca wants to define him.

“I’m gonna try as hard as I can. I’ve never competed in sports but I’m going to show I can do it.”

With a twinkle in his eye and a continued positive attitude, Apodaca shared he is returning to duty for a second time. Proof he hopes will show others he is still getting back up and never giving up.

“Giving this whole heartedly to God is the only reason I can joyfully, peacefully and patiently do any of this with a smile on my face.”