Looking through the lens of survival: Beating cancer gives Dan Seegars a fresh outlook on life

Tyler McNeil

Creative Editor

After battling prostate cancer at the age of eight-years-old, electrical engineering student,Dan Seegars has seen life through a viewfinder. “Going through that gave me a perspective that most people at the age don’t have. I realized that life is very fragile and you try to live it to the fullest and enjoy it,” he said.

Seegars battle with cancer motivated him to further embrace his passions such as photography and even writing children’s books since recovery.

“I remember the next day after losing all my hair, my dad came home and he shaved his whole head so I wouldn’t feel left out or weird. I remember he came home; I was lying in bed sitting there, watching TV and he just took off his hat and just smiled. It made me the happiest person alive,” he said.

During his battle with cancer, Seegars wore baseball caps frequently to hide the product of chemotherapy, especially around other children.

He recalled being bullied by other children during chemotherapy, including one instance at a birthday party where another kid ripped his hat off and laughed at him, “I still wonder why he did that? I will never understand how somebody could be so cruel?” Today, the now-25-year-old, never wears hats in public, a reminder of his condition.

Seegars was home schooled throughout second grade by a private teacher and cared for by his mother. “My mother took care of me. She was awesome. She was at the hospital everyday. She held my hand when I puked my brains out,” said Seegars.

His battle with cancer influenced his mother, Melissa, to change her career path and become a nurse. Currently, she is the nurse manager at Orthopedic Associates of Dutchess County, in Poughkeepsie

Prostate cancer still lingers within the Seegars family. Two years ago, his father Dan Seegars Sr. was diagnosed with the same disease his son had 15 years prior.“My brother and I always supported him. We tried to help around the house. You could tell he was always tired but he still went to work,” said Seegars, “He’s a strong guy and that’s why I look up to him.”

After their battles with cancer, Seegars and his father have donated yearly to Relay for Life and the American Cancer Society. “We like to donate and volunteer our time as much as possible. If somebody asks me — i’ll be there. No questions.”

Both Seegars and his father volunteer for Hunting for a Cure and the Ryan McCalla Elroy foundation, which is named after a child who ended up dying from cancer around the same time as Seegars’ diagnosis.

Photography has grown on Seegars over time, “I’ve never been a really good artist. I can’t draw. I can’t do any of that. I tried sketching as a kid but it was just a joke. Photography was the one area that I knew I could stay in.” Photography was not only seen by Seegars as a hobby, but also a way to make a living while attending Dutchess County Community College, when he switched his first major — computer science.

He went on and off switching majors at Dutchess County Community College from 2007 to last year. “It was weird because in high school they show you what to do and once they get out, they’re like ‘okay, pick something’,” he said.

He worked at La Puerta Azul, his first job, eventually eclipsing college. Within the next three years working at the restaurant, he was promoted to management and went part-time, taking about two credits a semester, he recalled. “I realized as soon as I moved up here, I just have to get done with school and then start making money. I got too focused on making money right away,” said Seegars.

He still works in the restaurant business at the Hollow in Albany and at P.F Changs in Colonie, but now prioritizes classrooms over kitchens.

Last spring, Seegars looked to pursue engineering. According to the 25-year-student, engineering was the ideal choice to due to his father’s influence, who has worked as an engineer for IBM his entire life. “Whenever I look at something, I want to know how it works,” said Seegars.

While searching for affordable colleges, Seegars eventually landed on Hudson Valley over the summer. He said, “I like this college better. People seem more serious about what they do.”

Amy McEwing, coordinator of the school of technology academic advisement center, first encountered Seegars on his first trip up to Hudson Valley. The relationship spawned when his advisor was not present, and McEwing signed him up.

According to Seegars, he has stayed in close contact with her, stopping by her office for support in academic and children’s book rough drafts.

His story, centering on the water cycle, follows a rain drop who lives with his family in the clouds, falls out of the clouds, lands in a lake flowing down through a stream. The raindrop encounter animals while looking for its parents and ends up in the ocean where it reunites with its family.

Although Seegars reunites with his family on a limited basis, he makes an effort to stay in touch with them. “My mother sent me a text the other day saying ‘I miss you’. She and my brother have been telling me that it’s quiet back home because I’m the one who is always making all of the noise,” he said.

“I’m definitely very talkative. I can talk to anybody about anything,” Seegars said about bartending for years from the age of 18 to 23.

While Seegars enjoys talking to people, he gratifies time alone. “I like it. It’s quiet. I can focus on what I need to work on but at the same time, I live in Troy, it’s still a city. I’m on a quiet street but I can still go out a block and get a drink,” he said.

Despite the last seven years being unclear in regards to the future, Seegars has mapped out his future as far as the southwest in Phoenix, Arizona.

With the future ahead, sometimes Seegars finds it difficult to leave the past behind. He still struggles with self-doubt but makes an effort to keep his head up. He said, “I still let little things get to me. I think about [cancer] and some people are worse off than I am. I shouldn’t let things get me down. I should keep going and make the best out of what I have.”

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