- Associated Press - Saturday, August 16, 2014

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) - In Todd Blake’s kitchen, a framed picture of floating rainbow hot-air balloons rests on the wall. The art brings back memories of wedding rings, a balloon ride with his new bride and the beginning of their journey into the unknown.

In the stillness of the sky on their honeymoon balloon ride, Blake and his wife, Maja, now both 23, didn’t feel any wind or hear much of anything. Blake said he could still feel the pain in his lungs from the terminal cancer, but he ignored it.

Enjoying the moment was more important.

The hospital could wait.

Blake, a Jacksonville native who lives in Jacksonville Beach, was diagnosed with Stage IV Hodgkin’s lymphoma about five years ago. He graduated this month from the University of Florida, receiving a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a 4.0 GPA, earning him the university’s highest honors. He went on national TV to share his story with “The Today Show.”

Blake said he realized about two years ago - after the chemotherapy stopped working, after his cancer appeared for the third time - that the disease was going to kill him. He had two choices: Give up, or live life in fast-forward mode.

He married his college sweetheart, started a foundation to help young adults with cancer, got a job at a real estate company and adopted a puppy. Saturday’s graduation was another check off his list before he moves on to new goals: to write a book, record an album with his wife, grow his faith and be the best husband possible.

He ignores the doctors’ estimates of time left - all that matters is it’s small.

That means Blake has to make every day count.

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Blake won’t sugar-coat his illness. He’s past being cured. He doesn’t say that to be negative, just to state facts.

“I know that it’s inevitable, and I’ve accepted that. And it’s been a long process to accept that,” he said.

He was diagnosed a week after he moved away from his parents’ St. Johns County home and into his new home in Gainesville. The night sweats, weight loss and itchiness suddenly made sense.

Blake took medical leave from his classes and moved back to northeast Florida for eight months of chemotherapy at the Mayo Clinic.

The cancer was gone, and Blake started preparing to pick up his life where he left off.

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