If you don’t know Conner Firstman, maybe the video above jogs your memory. Or just type in his name in the YouTube search engine. He produces videos such as this one —
— for the Montana State University athletics department. And he has kept up that attitude, pictured below, through his entire life.
That was one of the many things that I find remarkable about him after speaking with him and those who know him well for my GameDay opus on him and his fight against chondrosarcoma. Below you will find reams and reams of interview materials – we talked for two hours last Friday, and I spent roughly that amount of total time connecting with his parents, grandfather and several friends and colleagues.
We chatted about everything from the disease to how the whole Gangam Style lip-synchronization came about. Besides that, may favorite story revolves around his mother’s “self-fulfilling desire” coming true, and Conner living in his mother’s old bedroom.
He was kind enough to share several photos of his personal collection with me, including several revolving around his three surgeries to remove tumors. And several still exist.
Now, before we get too into this, I have to pause. I can’t give out the transcription of all the interviews. The quotes from Conner, et al., is about 5 thousand words. That’s too much for a blog. So I’ll pick out two quotes, if applicable, for each interview subject. Maybe I’ll keep this post under a thousand words then.
“One of the biggest changes of my life through all this was just about pride. As much as you think you’re amazing at being you and being who you want to be, you can’t always do it by yourself. I learned that.”
“Just Montana State alone, and everything this university has to offer, was my motivation the whole time. In every hospital, in every operating room … Montana State was my motivation, and it is my escape.”
Exhausted one night, Facebooked Leslie after watching video at 2 a.m. “If you play this at a football game, I’ll learn the dance to it and wear a tux” and sent it to her. I didn’t realize I did that, because I was surprised at her response — that’s not a bad idea, because you look like him. Put some sunglasses on.”
“My parents — it wasn’t a surprise on my 12th birthday with the cake: ‘You’re adopted.’” Obviously my parents wanted own children, but mom got sick and couldn’t have own.
“It was never that big of a deal because we didn’t make it that big of a deal. You’re adopted, but we’re here for you. Always.”
“That’s not to say we’re all sticking our heads in the sand and this is a walk in the park. There are moments of fear and tears and sleepless nights and sick to your stomach feelings. All the what ifs and whys — that stuff is all there.”
“I think he’s chosen to, and I’ve chosen to, too — some of it is just the attitude of the mind and heart in some ways. ‘OK, this is what we’re faced with. How am I going to walk this road?’”
“Conner has always been — when Conner was three, four or five, I always left thinking ‘I’m talking to a small grown-up.’ He always has had the ability … to really get it, to understand what’s going on.”
“I have so much to learn from him, still, in how he handles these things. It’s not out of context at all for Conner to say what he told you, he’s accepting it and dealing with it rather than panic and go to pieces. That’s just who he is.”
“It’s rather discouraging in some ways, but on the other hand it’s a pleasure to see his attitude (toward it). He seems very hopeful, he has a lot of faith in G-d and he doesn’t seem to reflect any kind of downcast as all. He’s just very hopeful and that part is encouraging.”
“He’s the most selfless person I’ve probably ever met in my time here. He cares about G-d, his family and Montana State football. That’s him, that’s what he loves to do. He’s going to school here for film, obviously he loves doing that. But he loves being on the sidelines during games and being around the guys.”
“Conner — everybody knows his situation, and there’s no doubt in anybody mind. They pat him on the back and say ‘Hey, you’re going to be fine.’ Everybody knows it. We just think positive like that.”
“He exemplifies what MSU Bobcat athletics is all about, and has been an inspiration for every athlete and team — he does so much for the athletic department and does it so unselfishly. It’s amazing.”
“It’s frustrating in a good way that he cares that much. To be honest, I’ve never met anybody like him; he’s an inspiration to all of us. We all have tough days, and I think about the stuff we face as adults. And that’s not really a big deal when you have someone like Conner who fights and fights and fights.”