Former D.C. United soccer star Shawn Kuykendall has lost his battle with cancer early Tuesday morning at the age of 32.
Although his professional soccer career was cut short due to knee injuries, Kuykendall went on to work as an assistant coach at American University and, most recently, the director of player development for youth soccer giant Montgomery Soccer Inc.
Shawn's peak physical condition was no match for a rare form of thymic cancer with which Shawn was diagnosed in July of 2013. At that point, the cancer was at Stage IV, meaning it had spread beyond a curable point. Doctors gave him only two years to live.
It was at that point that Kuykendall made the choice to turn to God for strength. "Clearly when you get diagnosed with cancer, especially one as rare as this, it immediately comes to mind, really got to come to grips with it because you don't know how long you're going to live, you don't know how fast it's going to progress," he revealed to the Washington Post last November. "It's really taken me to a crossroad with my faith."
The doctors aimed to initiate chemotherapy treatments at that time with six treatments planned from July to November. Despite chemo's typical 50 percent success rate in shrinking tumors, Shawn decided to go ahead with the treatment. But the Kuykendall family had an extended plan of their own. Instead of reading more about the disease and worrying about the possible outcome, they turned to their faith.
Shawn was home-schooled as a child and raised with a strong sense of faith -- a foundation that continues today within his family. His father was a soccer star himself, and his mother coached and played in adult leagues.
When a fan asked Shawn how he was doing during the treatments, he replied, ""Doing good. Four cycles in. . . . Some people live a long time with this, some people don't. . . . A lot of it is my faith and trust in God. He's got a plan for this. Just take it as it is. It is what it is, right? Can't do anything about it. I'm not gonna waste my emotions wallowing in self-pity."
Kuykendall remained in good spirits up until the end -- a trait he was well-known for in his circle of family and friends. He maintained his extroverted jokester personality through YouTube videos he uploaded and was always known as the life of the party. His family raised over $60,000 for medical bills by selling T-shirts with the phrase #kuykenstrong.
At one point, during months of experimental chemotherapy, Shawn turned to his Facebook friends to continue their faith and strength through God. "No longer held captive by the successes and or failures of things that are out of our control. Instead, take joy in how we live. No regrets and a clear heart."
Shawn's memorial service is planned for March 22.