Drew Stockton

Drew Stockton was diagnosed with Stage 2 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in May 2017, at the age of 25. The UNC-Chapel Hill graduate was 3.5 years into his banking career, slowly moving up the corporate ladder and building a savings account — the route he was told was the pinnacle of success.

Before his cancer diagnosis and 4 rounds (8 treatments) of ABVD chemotherapy, Drew was already itching for a change. “My cancer diagnosis shook things up, and it ultimately gave me the extra confidence I needed to make an even more drastic shift in my life,” he said. Drew quit his stable job in March 2018 without a plan apart from a 2-month solo backpacking trip in South America.

“The bank had taught me a valuable lesson at a young age – that money does not lead to peace/joy/happiness. I left the bank hungry for worldly knowledge and answers to what does lead to peace/joy/happiness,” he explained.

That 7-week trip became two years of adventure for Drew, who now lives in a small beachside town in Spain where he teaches English to over 300 children ages 5 to 11. His journey has taken him to New Zealand, where he drove across the country with a college friend, as well as the French Alps for ski season, all around Europe, and down through South America.

Like so many survivors Mission interviews, Drew says he carries a “sense of guilt” in regards to his entire cancer experience, and humbly reiterated that his battle with cancer was less severe than so many people that he came in contact with through his treatments.

“I may not feel like I deserve to be in the same conversation with so many of these warriors whom I admire so much,” he says, although he expresses gratitude for the impact of his story on others.

“Something tells me that I wouldn’t be living in the small town of Torreblanca, Spain teaching English if I had never been diagnosed with cancer.”

While Drew has always maintained an active lifestyle, he says he has more recently come to understand the importance of training his mind. The theme of his wellness goals, therefore, is to further develop the connection between mind and body, he says, which involves repeated practice and time spent focusing on the physical sensation in the body and the present experience.

Taking his meditation practice to a new level involves 10-day silent Vipassana courses. He says this meditation technique has taught him so much about life, and particularly about selfless service. Another therapy that Drew has explored is Somatic Experiencing (SE), aimed at relieving the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and other related health issues by focusing on a client’s perceived body sensations. Drew will begin a 3-year training program in September 2020 to become a licensed SE practitioner.

Drew is looking forward to sign up for a few 10k races in Spain and says he is focused on maintaining a vegan diet, practicing yoga, meditation, and getting outside with running and hiking.

When I asked Drew his personal motto, he offered one in Spanish, a language that he loves. “Poco a poco,” translated to “step by step” is all about having patience and confidence in yourself and your personal journey. This is particularly important when we’re trying new things and eager to see immediate progress, he explains. “Poco a poco is a constant reminder to me to slow down and stay confident.”

If he had to choose one thing he really loves about himself, Drew says it’s that he “turned fun thoughts/dreams into reality” and trusted his gut throughout the journey. “I remember sitting at my desk in front of my dual monitors dreaming about a different life where I didn’t have to sit in front of these computer screens and crunch numbers all day. It wasn’t easy to leave that all behind, but I haven’t regretted it once and feel confident that I’m right where I’m supposed to be.”