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For Everyone Touched By Cancer

Drugs, Depression & Prison: How my fathers' cancer turned my life around

Written by Kurtis Stapleton on 
13th June, 2019
Updated: 29th January, 2024
Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes

In 2005 my father was diagnosed with bladder cancer.

Living 9 hours away and not having any money, I couldn't do anything for him. He also downplayed the whole thing, making it seem like it wasn't that bad. 

I had also been using painkillers recreationally for a few years prior to that. I suffered a back injury in 2005 and my drug use spiraled out of control.

Suddenly my dad's cancer took a turn for the worse. I received a phone call from my brother to come see my dad PRONTO.

So we went to see him. It was worse than I had thought. The cancer had taken over his entire body and mind. It had spread throughout his lymph nodes and brain. I  said goodbye to my father that weekend. On my way home I decided I was going to live a life of happiness. So i divorced my wife and left her and my 2 kids.

This was the best decision I had ever made. However, I was not so happy.

I had been battling demons and didn't now what to do. 

I met my wife (now) and it turned everything around. I was still using drugs and getting worse. I had told her about my drugs, but she didn't know how bad it was.

In 2008 I proposed to her and we were to get married on 4/4/09. On 4/2/09 I was laid off from my job of 3 years. 2 days before our wedding. This sent my spiraling downward.

1 week after our wedding I was feeling hopeless and lost.

I made the worst choice of my life. I had no money to buy drugs and I couldn't go to anymore doctors since they had all stop prescribing me painkillers. So I chose to rob a pharmacy for pills. 

I got 1500 pills and ate them all within 1 week.

I was out and chose to do it again. Only this time it didn't work. I was driving down the interstate and that's when I saw 8 police cars behind me.

Once I pulled over I looked in my mirror and saw the 8 rifles pointing at my head.

That was the moment I chose to never use drugs again.

I was sentenced to 20 years. I got 5 years in prison (with an earned release program option) and 15 years of extended supervision.

Being incarcerated gave me the skills to help people with cancer

While incarcerated I taught myself how to crochet to pass the time.

I had made 1000 hats for children in need. After I completed the Earned Release Program I was able to go home 2 years early in 2012. Once home I continued to crochet and make stuff for different charities. I also had confronted my inner demons and was finally at peace with myself and those who had hurt me in the past. I learned how to forgive. I decided it was time to live that happy life and be positive

In 2018 a friend of mine asked me to make a hat for her cousin who was going through chemo and needed a soft hat.

I proceeded to make her a blanket and pillow. The feeling I got from that gesture was indescribable.  I decided to finally do something good in my life.  I started to post on Facebook if anyone was going through chemo and needed a soft hat to contact me. That got a lot of attention and soon a local news station wanted to interview me.

The Battle Cap Project

That story was picked up by other stations around the country.

3 weeks later CNN contacted me to interview me and they put that on their website.

Now I had people from all over the world asking for hats.

It was a getting out of hand and I couldn't afford to do this by myself. So I setup a gofundme account and I've been running this off of donations ever since.

I have since started to put together care packages to go with the hats. I call these Battle kits. They consist of lip balm, lotion, 5 pcs of ginger candy, 5 pcs of sugar free hard candy, hand sanatizer, and an inspirational card handmade by several people/children.

With the help of total strangers, this project has taken on a life of its own. 

While I'm doing this I'm working a full time job and looking after my 4 year old son along with my wife. 

I continue to flourish in life, growing in my professional career, growing the battle cap project into something bigger that what it is now. 

I'm finally living that happy life I had only dreamed of. 

Further reading

Having A Positive Attitude Helped Make My Breast Cancer Easier

I Was Born a Fighter: From Childhood Cancer to 22 Years Remission

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