Leon Mitchell II discovered he was the butt of an Internet joke after a friend texted him the meme with the hashtag #MethCurry, the married father of two said. To respond, he had to push back.
Mitchell told ABC News he was initially "embarrassed and humiliated" that his image, taken from a social media account, became a meme. In reaction, he decided to post a lengthy rant revealing that he was diagnosed with head and neck cancer called nasopharyngeal carcinoma on Feb. 24, 2005.
"The fact that the meme was posted was a reminder of how distasteful and cruel people can be without background knowledge of the person in the bullseye of the target," he wrote Wednesday. "I've struggled deeply for years with the devastating effects cancer treatment(s) plagued my body with."
Mitchell added that although his feelings were hurt, he's become accustomed to dealing with his new appearance thanks to his wife, Jennita.
"Personally, I've had to deal with my situation for 10 years and have had come to terms with my outward physical appearance. I've been able to empower myself through it," he told ABC News. "My wife and I started a mantra: Not now or ever! It was something we said on a daily basis when we were fighting. We would use that as a catalyst on a day-to-day basis to get us through the daily trials and tribulations. And 10 years later, we still use the mantra. Our children use it. It's a lifestyle."
Mitchell clarified that he doesn't want sympathy. Instead, he wants to remind Internet users to think before they post.
"I don't want anyone to feel sorry for me. I don't want a pity party," he continued. "I want to take this and turn it into a positive. I don't have any animosity toward the person who created it. I don't even think it was an intentional attack on my cancer situation. It just so happened to be a (distasteful) joke."