I am Ryan Gibson, and I was diagnosed with ocular melanoma on March 8, 2016. On March 26, I had my right eye removed at Wake Forest Baptist Hospital in North Carolina.
Some people would have felt they had lost everything, or that it was the end of the world, but I am a southern soccer fan and we are a very hardheaded bunch. In fact, being a super fan of the German soccer powerhouse FC Bayern München actually came into play in a huge way when I chose my prosthetic eye.
I could have gone the regular eye route and matched it to my remaining eye, but what fun would that have been? Instead, I chose to have an FC Bayern eye made for two reasons. First, it instantly brings up my love for Bayern in conversation and, second, that leads straight into talking about ocular melanoma. All it took was submitting a letter of permission to use the FC Bayern international trademark to my ocularist at Carolina Eye Prosthetics.
And, boy, has it accomplished what I wanted! My eye has had more than 130 million impressions on social media, 40-plus articles written worldwide and multiple videos done about it. My eye and I have appeared on Fox Sports, GOAL, BleacherReport, FC Bayern social media, Yahoo Sports, The Sun (UK) and 90min.com, along with many others in 30 countries. I’ve been given the name “Bayern Ryan” and have been called the world’s craziest Bayern fan.
Through it all, I have learned that if you can figure out how to have fun with something tragic, like an ultra-rare eye cancer, you can motivate and inspire millions, as well as create unrivaled awareness for your cause. I’m grateful that Carolina Eye Prosthetics and FC Bayern were on the same page as me when it came to realizing what I wanted to achieve.
These days, you can find me every game day at the Courtyard Hooligans Soccer Bar & Pub in Charlotte. I’m the one wearing the custom “Bayern Munich Cancer Survivor” jersey that Premier Soccer Charlotte created for me. Or you can just look for the Bayern Eye. There is only one in the world.
Ryan Gibson owns Hammerhead Sports Marketing, a sponsor and endorsement company, based out of South Carolina. A U.S. Navy veteran and avid FC Bayern Munich fan, he is also a traffic controller with the Clover School District in Clover, SC. He is the only one-eyed traffic controller he knows of. You can follow his journey on Instagram @bayern_ryan or Twitter @HammerheadMrktg.
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