Tim Cheves has used his own medical issue to motivate him. Cheves, who battled chronic fatigue and immunodeficiency syndrome as well as other issues, is now hoping to help others as a doctor.
It started in his youth. Cheves suffered severe panic attacks and anxiety that often times prevented him from having a normal childhood.
As he got older those subsided, but he battled depression, but for most of the time he kept it hidden, trying to be the life of the party when the truth was 180 degrees different.
Cheves graduated from Mountain View in 2007, then moved on to the University of Arizona. It was at the UofA where he started feeling bad and it quickly escalated. He got worse and worse over the course of six years.
Soon he had tumors on his thyroid, his liver was failing and after 12 kidney stones he quit counting.
“After every three words I would have to stop and take a breath,” Cheves admitted. “Horrible joint and muscle pain, but could not take pain medication due to my liver. I would sleep 14 hours a day and I would wake up feeling like I ran five marathons.”
It got so bad that he would have to sleep on benches between classes.
The kid who grew up wanting to be Superman, then grew up wanting to save people through medicine, was seeing his ailing health keeping him from pursuing his dream of practicing medicine.
“How am I supposed to do my passion when I cannot even get the class?” Cheves asked. “Instead of being the one doing the saving, being the hero, I was the one in need of saving.”
Brain stem swelling hurt his concentration, yet he still managed to get A’s and B’s. Eventually, he also learned he had ADD, making his academic success even more impressive.
He also lived through a horrific car accident, where the Chevy Metro that he was a passenger in was hit by a drunk driver in an F-350. A similar accident would claim the life of a friend a few years later.
“With the car accident, the medics looked at us, looked at the mangled piece of metal that used to be our car, and then back at us. ‘Son, you should not have been able to walk away from that accident,’” Cheves said. “A statement I still hadn’t fully grasped until years later when a family friend was in an almost identical accident and died. Big truck, little car, same angle, but slower speed than ours. I should not be here.”
For six years he battled the illness, going to doctors all over the country and little had worked to that point. It was at the point of having to figure out the next step, when he and his family turned to their faith, that things started improving and improving rapidly.
The symptoms started to disappear and eventually they went away all together. Four months after the last of the symptoms went away, Cheves was competing in his first triathlon.
Now that he could run, he hit the ground running. Now that he could breathe, he was going to cherish every breath. He co-founded clubs at the UofA, competed in more triathlons, got his degree and was eventually awarded the Physiology Wildcat Award for “having persistence and courage to overcome life’s challenges.”
He competed in Team Triumph, a club that allows paralytics and the wheelchair-bound to run with the help of someone else.
“Once sick myself and relying on the strong legs of doctors to carry me across my finish line, I wish to do the same thing for my patients,” Cheves said. “I want to be strong when they can’t.”
Cheves’ desire is to help people. While some get into medicine for the glory or the money, for Cheves it is to help. He has already volunteered for Pima County Search and Rescue and has worked with less fortunate patients through his experience with ProActive Physical Therapy, where he worked as a physical therapy tech. He sees a shortage of doctors on the horizon and hopes to fill part of that void.
More than that, he wants to use his medical skills to help the less fortunate. He wants to go overseas and treats the poor. Long term, he wants to Free or close to free surgical centers.
Cheves was admitted to medical school and was prepared to leave in mid-August, but a new health issue has delayed his enrollment by a semester, though there may be a bright side. An opportunity to stay in town and attend the UofA, which would help with costs.
That is the last great obstacle for Cheves. Medical school is wildly expensive and they do not allow med students to work. Like the majority of those in medical school, he will take out loans, but knows the more debt he incurs, the longer it will take before he can truly help people. Cheves is taking a 21st century approach to a 20th century problem. In an effort to cut into his debt Cheves has established a GoFundMe site where people can learn more about his story and, he hopes, make a donation.
“I just want to serve those who are injured, or sick or in need,” Cheves said.