WESTPORT, Conn. – Staples track coach Jesse McCray knew he could count on a college fraternity brother to help him make Monday’s Coaches vs. Cancer meet a day to remember. And Anton Comizio did not disappoint his old buddy.
Comizio, who went to Western Connecticut State University with McCray, delivered a powerful message to girls track and field athletes from Staples, Danbury and Ridgefield before Monday’s meet. Comizio, who lives in New Fairfield and teaches in Yonkers, N.Y., is battling cancer for the third time since 2006. He has cancer in both lungs.
“He had a really good message,’’ said Nina Lochoff, a senior captain at Staples. “It’s important to live life to the fullest and not take any day for granted. It was great motivation to listen to him talk. It gives us inspiration to go out and try our hardest.”
Comizio initially went to the hospital six years ago after a diagnosis of Crohn’s disease, which affects the gastrointestinal tract. He found out later that he had cancer, and it turned his life upside down. “I thought I was too young when I first got diagnosed,’’ he said. “You learn pretty quickly it doesn’t work that way.”
His main theme was to fight through adversity, no matter what form it presents itself. “I know in each of you … you can dig down somehow. You’ll be surprised how much is down there.”
Comizio played football at New Fairfield High School, where his brother, Rich, was one of the best running backs in the state before starring at the University of Pennsylvania.
Comizio and McCray became united when Comizio started a fraternity at Western Connecticut, and McCray joined. They have stayed in touch, and McCray invited him to join him for Monday’s meet.
“This was my first opportunity to start giving back,’’ Comizio said. “When he called me and asked to do it, I was all in favor of it.”
The students were rapt as they listened to Comizio’s heartfelt address. Many bought luminarias and wrote the names of loved ones who have battled cancer on bags. The teams collected money to give to the American Cancer Society, and Staples girls wore pink shirts to signify the fight against cancer. The teams held a moment of silence before the last event of the meet. Comizio stayed for the entire 3½-hour meet.
“When you see the kids, when you their dedication for something like cancer, it’s moving,’’ he said. “You hope that what you’re going through raises awareness. You hope they don’t have to go through this in their lifetime. That’s what breaks my heart, to see a child going through it.”