Feature Article, Stock Cars, Washington — October 31, 2004 at 4:47 pm

Jerrod Sessler (issue 61)

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By Craig Murphy

Jerrod Sessler took a different track, one he’s been more than happy with.

Sessler’s professional racing career started in 1998 when he jumped into late models. Sessler had raced go-carts as a child, but acknowledges he should have done more carts or a lower full bodied class like Bombers before jumping into a late model.

“It is a progression when you’re learning how to drive,” he said. “At first the car is better than you are, and eventually you’re better than the car.

“I wish I had started in Bombers or go-carts earlier,” he added during a break in action at South Sound Speedway. “A go-cart is great for teaching you how to be a driver, while a Bomber is great for getting a big car around the track.”

After racing late models for two years, Sessler received bad news at the end of 1999: he was diagnosed with terminal cancer, in the form of Stage 4 metastasized melanoma.

“The doctors said I would never race a car again,” Sessler recalled. “I never missed a race. “They also told (wife Nikki and I) we would never have kids. Now we have two beautiful kids.”

Before son Gabe and daughter Farrell were born in June 2001 and March 2003, respectively, Sessler faced grim odds.

“They said I had a 40 percent chance of living five years, and a 5 percent chance at 10 years. I was 29 at the time, so I had a 5 percent chance of getting out of my 30s.”

A strong Christian, Sessler felt especially bad for Nikki. “My wife and I got married in 1996,” he noted. “She’s a phenomenal human being. The thought of widowing her was the worst part, especially since we didn’t have kids.”

Remembering the diet and lifestyle he had been introduced to by his aunt, Sessler started taking part in the Hallelujah Acres plan. The plan emphasizes the need for raw, living plant food and their juices. Sessler quit eating meat and dairy, replacing them mainly with raw foods like salads, fruits and vegetables.

“For me it was an easy change, because I was motivated by living,” he said. “I had the motivation to live out my dreams with my wife, and to live out life.”

Doctors had slightly different recommendations. “They recommended I do chemo and radiation,” Sessler said. “I didn’t do any of it.”

Through surgery in December 1999, it was discovered Sessler had cancer in his lymph nodes. “When melanoma is found, usually you can count the days,” he noted. “The medical community didn’t really offer much encouragement.”

After going with the Hallelujah Acres plan, Sessler visited his doctors every three months at first. “After six months they said I continued to look good and that they were surprised,” Sessler said. “They said they didn’t need to see me for another year, and they wanted to know what I was doing. After the two year mark, I didn’t go back.”

According to Sessler, more than 300 doctors have gone through the Hallelujah Acres training and can tell survivor stories, but are not allowed to prescribe it.

Sessler’s survival and improved health led to outreach. “It’s really a ministry for us now,” he said. “We have a website (www.hope4

health.org), and we invite people into our home and talk to them about our life.”

By the spring of 2000, Sessler – 60 pounds lighter than he used to be – was back on the track in his late model. “I never stopped thinking about racing,” he said. “If I had done (the treatments), I would have been sick for two years. I was healthier than I had been before. I’m happy, I feel good and I sleep good.”

Of course, sleep is a relative term with two youngsters in the house.

“It was awesome,” Sessler said of his children being born. “Our kids are awesome and healthy. They’ve never been sick. Gabe wants to be in the pits with daddy. He has a go-cart, and a battery-powered Powerwheels truck.”

Sessler, who owns his team, has one late model win to his credit but wants to add more. He feels the driver and team have improved. “I want to win a race this year,” said Sessler, whose next Super Stock race at SSS is Sept. 4, followed by championship night a week later. “I want to win one for my team.”

Part of that desire is because Sessler may not be competing at the local level next year. “I have been back east building relations with national teams,” he said. “My first choice would be NASCAR Nextel Cup, but also Busch or ARCA. I’ve been talking with Venturini Motorsports.”

At press time, Billy Venturini sat third in ARCA points. Sessler, who is going to a couple of races with the team this year, could be driving a second car for the team next season.

“If you want to get serious about racing, you have to be there,” Sessler said of the east. “It is a huge honor talking with them. It came about because of a recommendation from Joe Gibbs Racing.”

Excited as he is about potential future plans, Sessler is thrilled just to be here and knows where to give credit. “Accepting God gives your life purpose,” he said. “Even racing, as exciting as it is, is nothing compared to that.”

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