It’s tough for anyone to deal with a cancer diagnosis, especially someone at the age of 18. Todd Blake, a Jacksonville, Fla., native, was just beginning life as a freshman at the University of Florida when he was diagnosed with late-stage Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a serious form of blood cancer. Fast-forward through countless treatments and multiple relapses, Todd decided to make the most of his situation by starting a nonprofit organization to help other young adults deal with their cancer diagnosis. Now, his wife, Maja, has joined the battle against cancer — recently joining Mayo Clinic’s Cancer Center research team and pursuing future cures for several types of blood cancer.
Now 22 years old, Todd founded Live For Today Foundation with two women who also battled cancer as young adults. They created the organization with the hope of helping young adults with cancer by providing dynamic opportunities, fostering community support, and promoting healthy living. During their treatments, the founders gained a unique perspective on living each day to the fullest and were inspired to help others in similar situations to do the same.
“Living for today is all about feeling young and alive. Having cancer didn’t change that for me, it just made it more important to get out and enjoy each day," says Todd. "I hope Live For Today inspires young people, friends, families, and the community to live life to the fullest. It’s all about living with purpose and achieving fulfillment.”
Maja Blake’s journey with Todd through his cancer diagnosis and treatment sparked an interest in pursuing the fight against cancer. The couple were high school sweethearts, and their relationship grew even stronger as Todd went through chemotherapy, radiation and two failed bone marrow transplants in an attempt to control his disease.
Maja graduated from Florida State University with a degree in biochemistry this past May, just a month before her marriage to Todd. As fate would have it, she applied for a job at Mayo Clinic and was hired in July as a special projects associate in a blood cancer lab on the Florida campus. Today, she enjoys working towards a cure by testing drugs and analyzing various types of blood cancers.
“I feel blessed to have learned first-hand about cancer treatment through Todd’s experiences. It helps me to bridge the gap between patient care and lab research,," Maja says. "I am continually learning from experts in the field here at Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville and look forward to my future in cancer research."
Today, Todd is responding well to chemotherapy treatment and continues working towards a degree in business from the University of Florida, with plans to graduate next summer. Although Todd and Maja have faced plenty of adversity the last few years, they maintain a fun, youthful life and marriage, doing the things they love. The couple enjoys songwriting and performing together, Todd as a guitarist and Maja a singer. They have a bright future not only as a couple, but in fighting cancer on two fronts — helping young adult survivors through their foundation and researching treatments in the lab at Mayo Clinic.