Sean Fredella goes to class Monday through Friday, just like every other student on Samford University’s campus. However, it was not always like that for Fredella. In fact, the four-time cancer survivor has a story unlike any other.
Fredella has used his experience with cancer as motivation to make an impact in the world and, more specifically, the cancer community through his nonprofit, MoreThan4 athletics. MoreThan4 brings awareness and solutions to the issue that only 4% of the National Institute of Health’s budget goes toward pediatric cancer.
First diagnosed with leukemia at 2 years old, the diagnosis would begin a seven-and-a-half-year battle with pediatric cancer for Fredella. While other children went to school every weekday and theme parks in the summers, he spent his childhood in hospitals fighting for his life.
Fight is a very appropriate word to use when talking about Fredella, someone who endured chemotherapy, radiation and a bone marrow transplant. He even had a craniotomy, a surgical opening of his skull, so that they could drill a golf ball-sized tumor out of his head.
After already achieving several victories over cancer, the then-12-year-old Fredella discovered he had an extremely rare tumor called Esthesioneuroblastoma. Todd Fredella, Sean’s father, explained how bleak the outlook was at that time.
“By the time we figured out what it was, it was stage three, it had already reached his lymph nodes,” Todd said. “We were going to have to perform surgery that would likely take one of his eyes away. I mean, it was grim.”
Sean Fredella made his closest friendships in hospitals. Most of them did not make it,
“My best friend Tyler, my friends Sebastian and Andrew, all lost their battle with the same thing I was battling,” said Sean.
“I remember when people started asking him to share his story it was difficult. I told him he had already spent seven and a half years fighting, he has every right to walk away and live a normal life if that’s what he wanted to do,” said Todd Fredella. “He came back to me in a couple days and said, ‘I am Sean who had cancer, that’s who I am.”
Losing those friends to the cruel disease was crushing for Sean, but he would not let those experiences go to waste. Once Fredella was officially declared cancer free in 2013, it would have been easy, and understandable, for him to try to move on from those early years of his life, but it was important to Fredella to make a difference specifically, through athletics.
“I remember meeting Joey Bosa in the hospital his sophomore year at Ohio State. Then he came back his junior year and he remembered me,” explained Sean. “It made me realize how important athletes are to kids.”
That realization led to Sean founding MoreThan4 athletics with the help of Joey Bosa and many others to raise awareness for pediatric cancer.
Originally called “SeanStrong,” Fredella renamed it “MoreThan4,” so that the mission would have the ability to carry on past his lifetime.
“It’s kind of sad,” Sean Fredella said, “but so many movements are named after someone who had or has cancer, and it dies with that person. I want MoreThan4 to carry on long past my lifetime.”
MoreThan4 has taken off since its founding in 2016. The nonprofit raises money for pediatric cancer research, treatment, awareness and much more. Recently the organization raised $50,000 for a technology grant to buy iPads for children in the hospital to help with school and provide entertainment. It was also able to fund a special research project at the University of Alabama at Birmingham to help look further into treatments for cancer patients and life after cancer. A large part of the MoreThan4 mission is helping survivors of pediatric cancer as well, because the fight is not over when you are finally cancer-free.
“You have to realize they bathe your brain in chemotherapy for all those years,” explained Todd Fredella, “which makes life after cancer a lot harder too.”
Sean at the age of 20 has founded a nonprofit, created a YouTube channel with 15,000 subscribers, worked with professional athletes and executives at Adidas to design logos and merchandise for the MoreThan4 brand, successfully worked with the U.S. Patent and Trade office, and become a key figure in the resurrection of the Samford Lacrosse Club. His achievements would be impressive for any young man, but none are more impressive than his four victories over cancer.
“I think a lot of people view me as an unlucky person, but I consider myself extremely lucky,” Fredella said. “As long as the Lord wills me to be here I am going to give my all in everything I do.”