What do you do?
My name is Evan Ruggiero. I grew up in Old Bridge, NJ and I’m currently living in New York City. I’m an Actor, Singer, Motivational Speaker, and a One-Legged tap dancer.
What’s your story?
When I was in college, I woke up one morning with a pain in my right leg. I knew something wasn’t right. I couldn’t walk. I went to the hospital to have an x-ray taken and the doctor told me he wanted to perform a biopsy to see what exactly was going on.
After that operation, I was told I had Osteosarcoma, which is bone cancer. I was devastated. I had to leave school, put everything on hold, and start battling a deadly disease. After 7 months of surgery, my cancer came back, and I had to have my leg amputated above the knee. On top of that, I had to start chemotherapy. The cancer has metastasized in my lungs, resulting in two lung operations.
What kind of thoughts were going through your mind during the treatment?
To be honest, I was angry. I thought, “How could this happen to me?” It was difficult to want to finish my treatments. Chemo was very difficult, and looking at myself was hard. Not only was I seeing the physical side effects of chemo, but I also had to see myself with only one leg.
What encouraged you to keep pushing forward through the treatment?
All I wanted to do was go back to school and hang out with my friends. I wanted to sing songs and play music. I wanted to perform in the musical that was happening that semester, and I did. It made me feel normal again.
I wanted to start tap dancing again someday. I read about Peg Leg Bates, a famous one-legged tap-dancer, and I thought if he could do it, so could I.
What day to day things helped with your treatment?
My family helped me with day to day things. My mother spent many nights in the hospital with me, making sure I had the best advocate. My father took me to chemo every day and started me off with a good breakfast. He stayed with me until my first dose of chemo entered my body to make sure I was ok.
I had friends from home and school, spend days and nights with me at the hospital. Going back to school made me feel great. Like I was a normal college student. Learning how to walk again, and even drive. Just doing daily activities made me feel whole.
How has your life changed after the treatment?
There are certain things I have to be careful to eat, or certain activities I can’t take part in anymore, but I pretty much do everything I want to do. I travel often, performing, so I’m rarely in the same place for more than a month at a time. I have my home base in NYC, but many weekends I can be found traveling around the world for work.
What is your biggest inspiration in life?
I don’t know if I have many inspirations in life. It’s a tough thing to think about, and an honest answer from me. I have many things that bring me joy and things that make me happy in life. And those are what I strive for and work towards. Seeing other people be happy makes me happy. And that’s why I do what I do. It also makes me feel good when I’m on stage performing. I’m in the moment, always.
What has been your favorite show to be a part of?
I’ve enjoyed a lot of the shows I’ve been a part of. Some of my favorites include being on the Oscars, performing on the Ellen Show, “Bastard Jones” in NYC, which garnered me a Drama Desk Nomination for Best Actor, and “The Toxic Avenger.”
How did you learn about Live Art?
I learned about Live Art through Jason Mraz. We were speaking and performing at an event together and he asked me to join him for Live Art.
What would you say to someone else who is going through something similar?
I would tell them it gets a lot easier. Don’t give up. Try to find your most positive self, and have fun every day, you feel great.
What’s your outlook on life?
I try to have a positive outlook on life. I take things as they come to me. I don’t stress out about things as much as I used to. Bad things happen, it’s the world we live in. We have to be open to change.
Interview conducted on 7/2/19