U.S. Navy Chaplain Lt. Andrew Hoyle wasn’t sure he’d be on the earth much longer.
The Charlotte native who grew up in Fort Mill was diagnosed with Stage 3C testicular cancer last July. He endured three months of chemotherapy and then surgery in late November.
“Nine months ago, I was wondering if I was going to live,” the 37-year-old father of three said Wednesday
Hoyle talked to the Observer from Chicago, where he’d just arrived for the Department of Defense Warrior Games. He will compete in track, cycling and swimming through July 8, joining more than 250 other service members and veterans who were wounded or have endured life-threatening illness.
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Hoyle credits his wife, Amanda, for inspiring him through difficult times battling the cancer. “To be honest, I don’t think I would have lived through the chemotherapy treatment without her,” he said.
They met at age 12 attending Bible Baptist Church in Fort Mill, although he laughed recalling how they didn’t like each other back then. He and Amanda, who is from Rock Hill, now have daughters ages 13 and 10 and an 11-year-old son.
After graduating from Fort Mill High School, where he played right guard on the football team, Hoyle attended Ambassador Baptist College in Shelby.
He was an assistant pastor at Calvary Baptist in Elkins Park, Pa., from 2003 to 2007, and assistant pastor at Tabernacle Baptist in Virginia Beach, Va., from 2007 to 2013. He ministered to many Tabernacle Baptist members who served active duty in the Navy or had sons or daughters in the service.
“I’m in a Navy town, and I fell in love with the Navy,” he said of his decision to become a Navy chaplain. He was commissioned in January 2013.
Hoyle said he didn’t feel right after he finished a second deployment in April 2016 to the Mediterranean, along the coasts of Syria and Libya. His first deployment to the Mediterranean was a NATO deployment for an anti-piracy operation.
He finally checked in at a hospital three months later and was diagnosed with the cancer. After chemotherapy, he underwent surgery at Indiana University in late November, followed by a six-week recovery. “I couldn’t do a sit up or any running,” said Hoyle, who ran three marathons and an ultra marathon in his 30s.
A Navy physical therapist and later the LiveStrong at the YMCA program were integral to his recovery, he said. LiveStrong partners cancer survivors with personal trainers.
In May, Hoyle, who is 5-feet-9-inches tall and 175 pounds, achieved the maximum score on the Navy’s twice-a-year physical fitness test.
He has orders to report to the 1st Marine Division at Camp Pendleton, Calif., in August. Navy chaplains also cover the Marines and Coast Guard. He plans to remain a Navy chaplain “as long as God lets me.”
As for recovering from cancer to the point that he qualified for the Warrior Games: “I think I read a quote that there are times when you think you won’t make it, but then you look back and you did make it,” he said. “So just keep plugging along and use what God has put in your heart.”