Interview by Kiel Colon Cancer Brand Ambassador Riley Battle
Steve “Scuba” Johnson doesn’t like to wear shoes.
He hasn’t worn regular shoes since the 90’s – when he would drag his grandmother to the mall in attempt to get the latest from the Nike signature lines of Penny Hardaway, Ken Griffey and Deion Sanders. Since then, the Mississippi native has walked around in sandals, Birkenstocks and chaco sandals. So what do you do when you have no choice but to wear the only sneakers you’ve bought in the past 10 years that you essentially wanted to save as an investment to help pay for hospital bills ? Well, in the case of Steve “Scuba Steve” Johnson, you wear them because they’re the only thing you own that can help you walk because the chemo and radiation from your colon cancer diagnosis has made your feet raw and completely blistered.
Scuba Steve was so used to being on his feet at festivals – selling his well-known Scuba Steve apparel – so the fact of not being able to walk in a pair of flip flops or sandals never crossed his mind.
In our latest edition of Tell the Tale, Johnson unveils intimate details about his fight with colon cancer and details how a recently-released Kanye West shoe “saved his feet” from colon cancer effects.
Riley Battle: What was your initial reaction upon being diagnosed with colon cancer?
Steve “Scuba Steve” Johnson: My reaction was pure shock. I knew something was very wrong from all the bleeding, but for my age I didn’t think it would actually be cancer. I fainted and had a hard time wrapping my head around the news. My best friend listened as I went into a severe panic attack. It was definitely the scariest day of my life, and I am thankful my best friend was with me.
Battle: What effect did colon cancer have on your everyday life and your family?
Johnson: It affected my life completely. The agony I experienced before and after being diagnosed was so severe that I couldn’t walk, sit, or use the restroom without severe pain and bleeding. I was no longer able to wear light-colored pants or shorts because of the severe bleeding. The pain coming from the abdominal and rectal area was just unbearable. I sell t-shirts at festivals, and I remember bleeding everywhere and trying to not make it visible to my customers. I was unable to urinate because of the bleeding from my backside, so the urine would build up and cause my stomach to hurt. The pain caused me to not be myself at work. I am usually happy, energetic, and I love interacting with my customers, but now I had to just sit in the corner as the people browse my merchandise. It hurt to talk, breathe, sit and basically live. By Week 4 of radiation, I had 3rd degree burns on my pelvic area. From Week 4-8, my friend Billy had to come over and help me clean up my vomit and help me move around because, physically, I couldn’t do it for myself. I was unable to walk because my feet were all blistered up from chemo, so I wore my adidas Yeezy 350 Boost, which I credit to saving my feet.
The colon cancer affected my family’s life because when I could no longer move, they had to run errands, get prescriptions, and grab the food that I was craving at the time. It was really a lot for them to deal with, and I’m so thankful.
Battle: Why do you credit the adidas Yeezy 350 Boost for saving your feet?
Johnson: During my first three weeks of treatment, I was vomiting, non-stop from the chemo, and I turned in to a skeleton. The chemo turned my both of my feet into a blister – simple things like taking a shower was excruciating. I could not stand up on the floor – the carpet felt like pin needles going through my feet, which would cause blood to pour out of them. Standing on wood floor felt like hell, and the diamond-patterned chaco sandals I wear and have worn since 2003, destroyed my feet. By Week 4, I couldn’t move. One day, my best friend, Billy, picked me to go to the pharmacy, and he carried me up out of his truck. But I told him I wanted to walk. I ended up stepping on one of those parking bumpers, and it shattered my ankle; that’s how fragile my body was. After that healed, he said, ‘Man, you really need to wear shoes – real shoes.’
I told him that I’m a huge Yeezy fan, and I bought the “Pirate Black” and “Turtle Dove” adidas Yeezy 350s to put away and keep deadstocked for awhile and he said, ‘Dude, are you worried about money or comfort right now?’ I ended up wearing the Turtle Doves, and even though I was bleeding all over the insides of them, I felt like a new man. The Boost soles felt like clouds on my feet. I was instantly able to move better and walk into treatments unlike before.
Listen, I’ve been a Nike Air guy since birth, but now I am a full-fledged Yeezy boost fanatic; not just because I’ve been the biggest Kanye West fan on Earth since 2004 – when College Dropout changed my life – but because he has now changed my life twice because that shoe and sole helped me feel comfortable and helped me make it to treatments. I understand the hype around the shoe, but I honestly credit these shoes for helping save my life and getting me to and from my treatment appointments.