If you’ve ever visited Sharp Grossmont Hospital, chances are good that you’ve met the Blue Angel shuttle driver standing by the main entrance. Rocky Craig, former Major League Baseball player and retired UPS driver, is one of them. He has shuttled patients around the hospital’s campus since 2014. And in spring 2017, he unexpectedly became a patient himself.
One day while volunteering, Rocky became short of breath and felt his heart begin to race. Heeding the advice of a nurse who noticed his condition, he went home to rest. Later that day when he still wasn’t feeling better, Rocky went to the emergency room. After running a series of tests, doctors told him they found lung and prostate cancer.
As he was always a healthy athlete and never a smoker, the news came as a shock to Rocky. He decided to keep a positive outlook and see the experience as a journey with something to teach him. “I wasn’t going to let my diagnosis bring me down,” he explains. “I don’t let cancer identify who I am. It’s a part of my life, but it’s not who I am.”
Under the care of Dr. Kai Zu, Rocky underwent 38 days of radiation and a round of chemotherapy at the David and Donna Long Center for Cancer Treatment at Sharp Grossmont Hospital. As he explains in the video above, while it was not a pleasant experience, the staff and patients around him made it as pleasant as possible. Two days after his final chemotherapy session, Rocky returned to volunteering, driving around some of the same patients who sat by his side during treatment.
“I finished chemotherapy on a Monday and on Wednesday I came back to volunteering … and it felt wonderful!” explains Rocky. “Now when I take those people to the Cancer Center in a golf cart and they see me — knowing I’ve completed a session of chemotherapy and radiation — it gives them a little hope. It’s rewarding to be able to help the people who helped me through it, and to know that I’m part of their family now.”
In September 2017 at its 59th annual meeting, the American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) presented Rocky with a “Survivor Circle Award,” recognizing him for his dedication, time and energy in service to the community. During his acceptance speech, Rocky shared some great news: his most recent PET scan revealed that he is now cancer-free.
Rocky continues to volunteer at Sharp Grossmont Hospital every week, and as he makes his way through the campus, people constantly stop him to say hello, catch up or give him a hug. He talks a lot about how volunteering at the hospital has impacted him, but may not realize how much of an impact he has on those around him.
“I don’t know if I’ll ever walk away from being a Blue Angel shuttle driver. It’s a big part of my life and my week, and I really look forward to it,” he says. “My kids call it ‘going to work,’ but it’s not work … it’s a joy to be there. I look forward to going in, seeing people and being around that environment.”
Learn how you can make an impact at Sharp through volunteering.
For the news media: To talk with Rocky Craig about his cancer journey or volunteer service for an upcoming story, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at firstname.lastname@example.org.