I interviewed Derek Bolds by zoom on March 18, 2022.  He was in Waipahu, a town on the Hawaiian island of Oahu.  He was cheery.  Informative.  Coherent.   He was happy that his great friend of more than 30 years, my gym trainer Ronny Camacho, had put us together.  Three years earlier, on February 28, 2019, while working out with Ronny I had eavesdropped on a heartbreaking call from Derek, then 58.  A VA doctor had just told him he had stage 4 pancreatic cancer and only had 6-12 months to live. 

Every few weeks I asked Ronny for an update on Derek, and as the weeks turned into months and the months turned into years, I felt I was witness to a miracle of sorts.

But let’s begin with the backstory.

Derek was born and raised in Dayton, Ohio.  He played football.  Ran track.  Learned karate at 13.  He joined the army which stationed him in Hawaii.  He discharged after 6 years with the rank of specialist.  In Oahu, he married, had children, and became a top martial arts teacher, attaining the rank of 9th degree black belt professor. That was when Ronny, a junior college student aspiring to join the University Hawaii football team, became one of his students. 

We just kept clicking ’cause we just kept helping each other,” Derek recalled. “No matter what the scenario, the situation was, we just kept helping each other.  And that’s how we built a strong relationship.” 

The bond between them was so strong that after Ronny left Hawaii for California in the late 90s, they remained close friends.  Derek became a substitute father of sorts for Ronny’s son who stayed behind.  When “Lil Ronny,” as they called him, joined the Pop Warner football team when he was eight, Derek was there for him, “running up and down the field, giving him the play by play.“

“When the doctor first told me you’ve only got a certain amount of time I was devastated,” Derek told me on the zoom call.  “Then Ronny, someone that I care about, said: ‘Don’t even think about it.  We are going in a different direction.  We got this beat.’”

Ronny’s goal was getting Derek back into a “positive mindset” so that he could fight the effects of cancer the same way he approached martial arts.   Ronny believed that “in order to do anything amazing you have to believe in it.” Derek was an exceptional martial artist, one of the toughest people Ronny knew.  He told Derek that they were going to handle cancer the same way they used to fight.  Never give up.  Always go hard.  Challenge the cancer like they were sparring with somebody in the ring.  Keep fighting until they could no fight no more.  “What Derek did,” remembers Ronny, “was he took on cancer more as an opponent than as an illness.  Which was, you know, the first step.”

The second step was how to fight.  Ronny’s main concern was fighting the debilitating side effects of the chemo the doctor had started him on.

Derek recalled: “I was doing chemo every two weeks and chemo was breaking me down.  I went from 225 pounds all the way down to 160 because without an appetite I couldn’t eat.  And I couldn’t sleep.”

Ronny had been researching the benefits of CBD products for some time.  He believed that CBD oil could maybe restore Derek’s appetite and his all-important sleep patterns. Those changes alone might give him the strength to fight.  He told Derek to get whatever CBD oil he could find in Hawaii –”Any CBD would be better for Derek than no CBD oil,” he told me. 

I followed Derek’s progress, asking Ronny for a new report every few weeks.  I had no idea what CBD oil was, not to mention its possible benefits. Imagine my surprise when Derek told Ronny that the first time he was tested at the VA after beginning daily doses of the CBD oil, the test results came back so improved that the doctor had to have Derek retest.  The numbers were the same — and they kept improving.  One day a happy Derek reported to Ronny that his doctor said: I don’t understand what you are doing but keep doing it. 

Ronny began a national search for the purest CBD oil on the market.  He learned that the quality of CBD oil is directly related to the extraction process — where the plant comes from.  The purer the oil, the better.  He wanted nothing adulterated with olive oil, for instance, which is used by some manufacturers to dilute the product and lower the price point. 

“For me it was about quality,” said Ronny.  “It was about integrity.  I didn’t want any metals, any bad things in the oil because that defeats the purpose of pure CBD oil.”  The hardest part for Ronny was determining which companies were reputable.  He only wanted to buy from a company that tested its product, so buyers knew that what they were ingesting was no different than what was printed on the label.

Ronny began sending Derek the purest CBD oil he could find.  Derek’s appetite returned, and he gained back much of the weight he had lost.  He started sleeping through the night.  This allowed him to spend quality time with his family and friends.  He even started running again. 

The doctors at the VA kept projecting Derek would soon pass.  “One day I told them to stop,” said Derek on the zoom.  “I don’t wanna wait for another date to come and go.  I just wanna enjoy each day as it comes to me.  And—and that’s what I’m doing right now.  I just want to continue enjoying life.  I’m still going strong.

“I heard a story about a guy, also stage four, who wanted to survive long enough to see his daughter graduate from high school, but he didn’t make it.  I never talked to the guy, but he told some people that “unfortunately he wasn’t as strong as me.” He could have been.

One day about two years ago Ronny reported that he and Derek had agreed Ronny should launch a side company and offer others the same CBD oil that was helping Derek survive the cancer with dignity.

I was one of the first “guinea pigs.”  I was tossing and turning at night.  It was the middle of the pandemic and I was frantically trying to complete a feature length documentary about my late husband, juggling a director in Australia with a composer in Italy with editors in California.  Ronny gave me a bottle of the same CBD oil Derek was taking.   It was simple.  Just fill a dropper with a small amount of oil, open my mouth, aim and squeeze.  It worked.  In a matter of days, I began sleeping through the night, which gave my body the chance to restore itself daily, which allowed me to problem solve effectively and complete the film.  There was a QR code on the side of the bottle which showed lab results that matched the label.   

On our zoom call, Ronny let Derek know their company was going to be called “4LYF Wellness” and it would soon be launching, offering pure CBD oil products that battled not only the effects of chemo but sleeplessness and diminished mental focus.  The website was almost done, and the foundation as well.  Everything was coming together. 

“You know, man,” he told Derek, “You started this.  We’re going to touch a lot of people, motivate them.  It will be part of your legacy. “ Derek beamed.  Part of the ongoing profits of 4LYFWellness would belong to Derek and his family.

Ronny opened a 4LYF Wellness office here in Westlake Village, just minutes from the gym where we still workout.  A large photo of himself and Derek hung over the desk.

Derek passed on May 12, 2022, a month after 4LYFWellness officially launched.  Ronny flew to Hawaii to speak at his funeral, where his friends and family paid tribute to Derek’s “phenomenal” fight with cancer, surpassing all expectations.  Thanks to CBD oil he had outlived his first diagnosis by more than two years. 

Joan Borsten Vidov worked as a reporter for the Jerusalem Post and the Los Angeles Times entertainment section before becoming a film producer and distributor. Her new feature length documentary “Oleg” has won numerous awards at festivals around the world.

For more information on Derek Bolds’ and Ronny Camacho’s company visit 4LYFWellness.com