Using Social Media as a Force for Good

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Using Social Media as a Force for Good

Social media influencer, Anthony Corrado, was clearly destined for a life in the entertainment business. Getting his start making YouTube videos for fun as a kid, the 27-year-old now TikTok and Instagram star, uses his platform to do what he loves most – make people laugh. In 2023, life threw Corrado a curveball when he was diagnosed with lymphoma. Instead of navigating his diagnosis in private, he decided to stay positive while documenting his lymphoma journey and creating a remarkable community of support among his over 490,000 followers.

Growing up in Detroit and the suburbs of Chicago, Corrado enjoyed acting and theater in high school and
went on to take improv classes at The Second City. After repeatedly getting turned down at auditions, Corrado became determined to find a way to build his own audience. For several months in 2022, he curated two TikTok videos every night after working 12 hours as a lighting studio technician for local Chicago tv shows.

Corrado finally got his big break in June 2022, when a TikTok video of him dancing in a parking garage to
“Down” by Jay Sean featuring Lil Wayne went viral. “It was one of the first videos where I decided to put some
dancing into the comedy, and it just took off. That video led to a lot of the success that I had later that year and
helped me build the audience that I have now,” he says. Corrado soon began pursuing his career as a TikTok
creator full-time, collaborating with the likes of Joe Jonas and the Detroit Lions, his favorite football team. “I was
just living my dream, waking up every day and trying to think of new ways that we could make someone laugh.”

One year into doing something he loved, Corrado’s world was turned upside down. In May 2023, he had surgery to remove a lump in his groin that he thought was a hernia. Corrado had been dealing with pain on and off for two
years since badly pulling his groin muscle at work, so he assumed this was related. However, Corrado learned
after surgery that the lump was a cyst in his lymph node. He didn’t think more of it while waiting for the results from pathology, which made getting diagnosed with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) a few days later all the more shocking.

“The first time I heard it, I was scared and shocked. By the second day, that had morphed into anger and bitterness. The third day, though, I was ready to take this thing on because unfortunately, I’m no stranger to cancer,” said Corrado.

DLBCL is the most common form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma in the United States and worldwide. While members of Corrado’s extended family have faced many types of cancer, lymphoma in particular hits close to home. One of Corrado’s grandmothers is a lymphoma survivor and his late grandmother passed away from lymphoma. His father was diagnosed with a different form of lymphoma in his early 20s, though he’s fortunately “happy and healthy” now over 30 years later. “Seeing that my dad could get through it gave me more confidence and kept me grounded to take it one day at a time,” says Corrado.

Corrado’s treatment regimen called for six rounds of chemotherapy. After his diagnosis, Corrado resolved to take working out and being healthy more seriously. He cut out processed foods from his diet, stopped eating late at night, and started doing more cardio and weightlifting at the gym. “I made a decision that if I’m going to be going through this and putting my body through chemo, then I’m going to be the healthiest version of me that I can be,” he said.

Corrado is grateful to have such a big support system to help him through the challenges of treatment. His
girlfriend, Ashley, is his primary caregiver, and his parents and younger brother and sister have all been there for him, too. He also has a group of eight best friends he’s known since the sixth grade who still text and see each other frequently. “I am so lucky. People go through these situations alone, and I haven’t had to be alone for one second through any of this,” he says.

From the beginning, Corrado knew he wanted to tell his social media followers what was going on. “I didn’t want
any secrets. I didn’t want to not show up for them, and I didn’t want to not show up for myself,” he explains. However, he had some initial concerns about how his audience would respond to such heavy news coming from someone who usually brightens their day. “I didn’t want anyone to be feeling bad. I didn’t want people to forget about the funny videos that I have and remember me as the kid with cancer. But the more I thought about it, that was ridiculous,” Corrado said. “I’m me. I’m always going to be funny. I’m always going to have my sense of humor and no one’s taking that away from me,” he realized. Corrado decided he was up for the challenge of morphing the cancer into something that reflects who he is – something funny. “I was going to find a way to take a serious situation and show people that no matter what it is, you can always laugh at it,” he said.

Corrado didn’t know at first how he would get started. It was when he was alone at the driving range, one of his favorite places to go to clear his head, that he spontaneously decided to record a TikTok video about his diagnosis as he whacked golf balls. “I said everything that I wanted to say, and I didn’t have to plan a lick of it. It just goes to show how important it is to be able to find those places where you can sort of meditate in a way.”

Corrado was blown away by the outpouring of support he received from his followers. “I knew that people liked my videos, but I didn’t know that their support of me was this deep,” he says. “There were dozens and dozens of people who were already following me, talking about how they’re going through something similar, or they know somebody going through something similar. I think it made my community closer,” he adds.

Ever since that first video, Corrado has been forming meaningful connections with his audience. He has continued to document his chemo journey to inspire other cancer survivors through his channel.

Corrado has found it very rewarding to blend together two different worlds into a “beautiful little melting pot of people who are going through something.” There are healthy followers getting to learn more about cancer alongside cancer survivors who are enjoying the funny content too. Corrado gets messages from followers having a hard time at school or work who are grateful for his videos that put a smile on their face, and from followers going through chemo who are grateful to see someone also going through treatment. “I didn’t realize that was an itch that needed to be scratched for people. Turning nothing into something in the way that we did, there are no words for that,” he says.

His biggest advice for others with lymphoma is to try to make light of a bad situation. “Learn to laugh at it,” he says. “I believe part of the reason I’ve been able to feel pretty decent throughout my treatment, not to say that I haven’t had my bad days, is due to my attitude.” Corrado also urges his community to take it one day at a time and tap into their passions. “Make the most of it and find something that you can do, just because you love it, and try to do as much as you can.”

It’s no surprise Corrado has noticed more engagement with his content since he started telling his lymphoma story. The awareness he’s spreading has had a ripple effect among followers who are not only supporting him but are also supporting each other. “You’ll see people who will comment something like, ‘I’m going through this’ or ‘I’m on my eighth round of chemo’ and then there’s three or four more follow-up comments attached to that one. That’s what I mean when I say this community is so strong,” says Corrado.

Corrado has built this interconnected community among his followers because he knows how important it is for anyone going through cancer to have a support system. “What I think is so cool about this community is that if you don’t know someone who’s got your back, there’s someone out there who will. The internet brings us all together and that’s what makes it possible,” he says. He knew getting involved with a charitable organization could spread that support even further.

The more Corrado started to understand the role research plays in discovering new and more effective treatments, the more the Lymphoma Research Foundation (LRF) stood out to him. He could see the impact when looking at his own family history with lymphoma. Corrado’s father had to go through 12 different surgeries in addition to chemotherapy and radiation when he was diagnosed over 30 years ago, while Corrado was told he might only have six rounds of chemotherapy. “To me, that sounds like progress,” says Corrado. “Hopefully one day, we completely eliminate lymphoma, or the treatment will be so much easier than it is today. It felt like this is an organization that’s going to help lead the way to finding a cure.”

In July 2023, Corrado joined the Lymphoma Research Foundation at its Chicago Lymphoma Walk and raised more than $25,000 within just a few weeks. Over 100 people came to the event as part of Corrado’s team, traveling from as far as Indiana, Wisconsin, and New York. One family who had never been to Chicago before
even made a weekend trip out of attending in support of their mother back home with cancer. “I was shocked that someone I don’t know from a whole other part of the country has seen what I’m doing, and it had such an impact on them that they hopped on a plane and came to a place they’ve never been before. That still blows my mind,” says Corrado.

Corrado continues to support LRF and even attended the Foundation’s Annual Gala in September as a special guest. He looks forward to getting more involved with the organization in the future. “I want to continue to shine a light on this community and other communities like it. I’m excited to get my health back so that I can do that to the fullest potential,” he says.

“Once I beat this, all that means to me is that I’m going to have more time on my hands to take on bigger challenges, help more people, and hopefully continue to grow. I want to keep building this community because I truly feel like I’m just at the beginning of what this could really be.”

Corrado is determined to emerge from his lymphoma journey stronger than ever. “This has absolutely given me the confidence that I can truly take on anything. I feel like I’m ready for whatever life may throw at me and I’m going to handle it with a smile on my face.”

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Pulse is a publication of the Lymphoma Research Foundation, providing the latest updates on the Foundation and its focus on lymphoma and chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) research, awareness, and education