Against all odds: IED, paralysis, cancer did not hamper this Army vet’s spirit. He pressed on and chased his dreams

Curtis Worley is an Army Veteran and an associate's degree candidate at the Culinary Institute of Virginia. (Southside Daily/courtesy of Curtis Worley)
Curtis Worsley is an Army Veteran and an associate’s degree candidate at the Culinary Institute of Virginia. (Southside Daily/courtesy of Curtis Worsley)

Curtis Worsley an Army veteran and soon to be baking chef has been pursuing his dream of opening his own bakery ever since he enrolled at ECPI University’s Baking and Pastry Arts program back in April 2018.

“Everyone loves my cooking,” he said, adding he’s been cooking with his mom since he was a little, making a full Thanksgiving meal by himself at 13.

The road to get where he’s right now hasn’t been easy, though.

Worsley, who lives in Norfolk, served in the Army from 2000-2007 and in the reserves until 2010, but after his convoy was hit by an IED during a tour in Iraq in 2004, he was paralyzed.

He needed a serious back surgery to get him walking again and during the surgery the doctors found liver cancer, he said.

“There were times when I would check out of the hospital and go straight to class, but I was not going to give up, although at times I must admit, it did cross my mind. I just kept reminding myself what my mother said, that God does not give us more than we can bear, and I believe that. I also have learned that whatever does not kill us, makes us stronger. It may be a cliché, but it’s true, Worsley said.

Since then he’s been able to regain the ability to walk but the cancer’s gone in and out of remission since 2010.

“It’s been a tough journey,” he said, adding he’s been motivated by his childhood friend and now fiance, William Johnson.

“He inspired me to get my degree so I could open my own business,” Worsley said.

Worsley will get his associates degree in baking and pastry on May 17 and from there will pursue a bachelor’s degree in business at ECPI University.

“Of course, I did not do it alone. I had my family and friends, and the instructors at CIV were awesome,” Worsley said. “They did everything possible to help me stay on track while I was going through chemo. I’m getting married in August, and several of them have been invited to the wedding. By now, I just think of them as family.”

Right now he’s working privately as a cake baker and photographer but hopes to open what he calls his own “empire.”

He said wants to have his own complex where people can make a one-stop-shop and get all of their event planning needs in one place.

Worsley wants to open his bakery under the name “Courageous Cakes” because his cakes are made for those who are out of the ordinary and want uniquely styled treats.

His classmates at ECPI University have become part of his extended family, he said.

“It was worth coming here, the teachers are here to help,” Worsley said.

Throughout his cancer treatments and physical therapy for his injuries he’s relied on his teacher’s help to get his degree finished on time.

“Everyone’s been so great,” he said.

His classmates will help him cater his wedding and one of the chefs from the program will make his wedding cake, he said.

To learn more about the programs that ECPI University offers, click here.

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