Sometimes, in order to accomplish your goals, you need to be relentless.
That’s something 13-year-old Floyd Korzan learned the hard way when his father, Matt, was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, a highly-deadly form of blood cancer, after he fell ill on a family hiking trip in the Black Hills in 2012.
Matt’s fight against the disease has since taken the Mitchell family on a journey of frightening lows and celebratory highs and led Floyd to start Relentless Pledge, a non-profit organization that encourages patients to be as relentless as his father as they fight to achieve the goal of overcoming cancer.
“We basically have two goals. The first one is to inspire others to overcome obstacles and dream their dreams. And the second part of the goal is to give a Relentless wristband to every cancer patient in Mitchell, our hometown, and eventually, if we get big enough, South Dakota and the United States,” Floyd said in an interview with the Daily Republic.
It’s a goal borne out of Floyd’s experience when he sat with his father at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota as he underwent treatments for the disease. Matt beat the leukemia once, but it later returned, a bad sign when associated with this particular kind of cancer. It went into remission again but returned again in 2017, and doctors were not hopeful.
With few options remaining, Matt agreed to a stem cell donation treatment that would use cells provided by his sister, Margaret, who happened to be a 100 percent match, injected into his system following an intense round of chemotherapy. The treatment was difficult, but after 8 million donor cells were circulated through his system, the doctors began to see good results.
“Little by little, I came back,” Matt said. “After 30 days, they did a bone marrow biopsy that showed no evidence of leukemia whatsoever. They did another one at the end of the year, still no evidence of leukemia. They did one at the two-year mark, still no evidence of leukemia.”
Floyd recounted the scary days of his dad’s fight in an essay posted on his website relentlesspledge.org. He asked his father at the time how he could be as strong as he was even as he suffered from the disease and the side effects of his treatment. Matt’s response was that there may be times in life when the only person left who believes in you is you, and in those times, you must be relentless in order to make it through.
Floyd had found his own inspiration in his father’s fight, and he wanted to spread that inspiration to others who were suffering. Normally a private person, Matt agreed to share his story with the public and helped his son form Relentless Pledge, which encourages people to “live life to the limit, to dare, to dream, and be relentless in overcoming challenges.”
Visitors to the website can take the pledge, as well as nominate individuals to receive one of the symbols of the organization: a wristband bearing the word “Relentless.” Visitors can also order wristbands for themselves, family members, friends as well as cancer patients.
The goal is to spread the message of hope to every cancer patient in America, Floyd said. He has shipped orders of wristbands to 26 states around the country and three continents already, and the pair plan to pass out the wristbands to people in the leukemia ward at the Mayo Clinic, where Matt returns periodically for continued treatments. More wristbands will be given out at the Avera Cancer Center in Mitchell.
In total, they estimate they’ve given out about 400 of them so far. And the campaign is officially less than two weeks old.
“It seemed to strike a chord with people,” Matt said.
As the young program grows, Floyd said the organization could expand to include more than just cancer patients in its message. There are others who are trying to accomplish goals, as well, such as public servants or community-minded individuals.
“It’s not all about cancer. Now we’re looking at giving them out to local heroes," Floyd said. "So far, we’ve given them to local firefighters and the librarians at the Mitchell Public Library, and we’re thinking about the police department."
Floyd hopes Relentless Pledge continues to grow. He is eyeing expanding the Relentless line to include t-shirts that would promote the Relentless Pledge, but for now he is concentrating on fulfilling orders for the wristbands and getting them in the hands of people who need inspiration.
“I have big dreams in the future where this organization could expand to have a full line of accessories,” Floyd said. “Relentless gear.”
Matt said he is recovering a little more each day, and he’s grateful. He’s been able to throw the ball around in the yard with Floyd again, and he is working to become stronger as he continues his recovery. He said he’s grateful for the love and support of Floyd as well as his wife Bam and other children Alexis, Cassidy, Hailey and Jackson. He’s thankful for doctors like Kebede Begna and Lucio Margallo, both of whom Matt described as relentless in helping him fight for his health.
And he’s happy to help Floyd spread the message of hope through Relentless Pledge, he said.
“I think it’s great. I think it’s a noble project, and I think it’s good for Floyd. Of all the ways a teenager can spend their time, this is pretty solid,” Matt said.
Floyd said he plans to continue his work with the organization well into the future. He has a little over four years left before he leaves for college, and with that time he plans to do everything he can to remind those who are struggling to remain relentless.
One Relentless wristband at a time.
“The next step is spreading the word,” Floyd said.