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San Joaquin Valley College Blog

Construction Management graduate won’t let cancer slow him down

January 29, 2015
Online Construction Management-graduate Timonthy Ryder
Friends Chris and Bob enjoy a good day of fishing with Construction Management grad, Tim Ryder.

Timothy Ryder wants to be very clear about something. His story is not about cancer. It is not about having it, battling it, or eventually overcoming cancer.

“I don’t want people to feel sorry for me; I don’t feel sorry for me,” says Tim, who was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma just one month after enrolling in the Online Construction Management program. “Other people out there have been sick and went back to school; you just have to fight to go on anyways.”

Cancer was discovered when Tim was seeking medical treatment for two joints needing replacement in his left shoulder.  “You know that cancer kind of shocks you when you’re diagnosed with it,” says Tim. “But I think that school is what helped me go through it; it kept me occupied.”

At 59-years-old, Tim had spent most of his working life in engineering, supervising maintenance and various other departments, and had gone as high as he could go without more formal education. “I had all the trades and mastered them, but I needed a degree if I wanted to progress to Plant Manager.”

Much to his surprise after being out of school for so long, Tim was a great Online student and made the Dean’s List with a 4.0 GPA. “I write better than I speak sometimes, so it helped that it was online with lots of writing assignments,” he says. “I enjoyed our live lectures and meeting all the different students and hearing stories and putting my input into it.”

Joy, Tim’s partner of twelve years, was there for the hard times. “Joy was a big impact during this time,” says Tim. “She was there in the thick of it. She is my partner, and that is what ‘partner’ means.”

But five months into his nine month chemotherapy treatment, the ground got shaky. “On chemo, your brain gets scrambled, and I couldn’t remember what I was doing,” says Tim. He was granted a 3-month leave-of-absence.

Quitting the CM program was never an option for Tim. “I wanted that degree; you just have to tough it out and go on with it,” he says. “It’s the way I was raised. You commit to something, you do it.”

Almost as an afterthought Tim muses, “I figured that if I didn’t make it, at least I finished the school.”

“Tim had a lot of medical issues that could have got in the way of completing his program,” says Tekla Patton, Online Student Advisor. “But, he never let that stop him from getting his degree.”

Tim had seen what happened to those in his industry who failed to embrace new technology and move with the times. Touch screen computers are a common tool in plant maintenance, but many older technicians shied away from learning how to use them.

“A lot of older guys hated that computer,” says Tim, “and were still in the generation of push-button equipment. If you didn’t want to advance through education, you were going to be left back. Either you let it pass you by, or get on your two feet and start climbing it.”

Tim is a clearly a climber. He is honing his teaching skills along the way, too.

“Teaching was my whole idea when I started school,” says Tim. “When I got done with this, I can go on, maybe get my Bachelors, and help others. I’ve got lots of the skills that I think need to be shared.”

Tim graduated last year and is currently in talks with a company who is interested in putting his education, skills and innate wisdom to good use.

Tim is not afraid to do whatever it might take to accomplish his goals. “I think we are all here for a reason, and it certainly shows that if we keep on going, we’ll find it eventually,” he says. “I haven’t found the place I want to be and haven’t achieved all my goals, yet.”

Tim’s cancer has been in remission for a year now, but he lives with the knowledge that it can return at any time. “If it’s my time to go, it’s my time to go,” he says philosophically. “But, I will keep on doing what I have to do to live.”

And, living a good life comes pretty easy.

Tim and Joy are getting in some fishing. Tim used to reel in some big ones, up to 50 lbs – his largest (catch/photo/release) came in at 115 lbs. But, his doctor tells him not to lift more than 20 lbs. with his newly repaired left arm. Tim is good with that.

“Fifty pounds is a lot of cleaning…and the fish market is quicker,” he laughs.

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