One year ago today, my life changed forever.
One year ago today, I started a journey I never wanted to be on.
One year ago today, I joined a group nobody wants to be apart of.
One year ago today, cancer was introduced to my personal life.
One year ago today, I truly started fighting for my life.
I remember sitting up high on the patient bed in the surgeon’s office. My wife was in the room with me sitting on the chair close to me. We were anxious to hear the results from my biopsy, but hopeful nonetheless. When the surgeon came in he examined my scar where he had removed the lump a few weeks before. Then in the most nonchalant almost light and breezy kind way, he said, “So it’s lymphoma!” and put his hand on my leg to try and provide some sort of comfort. But I could not feel anything because my body had already gone numb from the blow he had just delivered.
The room began to blur and break apart like a fragmented incomprehensible dream and I began to fall into thoughts of despair and angst.
My life was over, I thought. I had just given birth to two beautiful and healthy twin babies eight months prior and I was now going to leave them and my wife behind. These thoughts crept into my brain as I pictured myself for a split second on my death bed. Then, I caught a glimpse of my wife’s face from the corner of my eye and it snapped me back to reality. Once the surgeon left the room, my wife got up from the chair she was sitting in, grabbed my hand, pulled me close, and we cried.
Only someone who has been delivered such life-altering news can understand the insurmountable pain, trauma, and fear that comes from an experience like this. I felt extremely isolated, exposed, and emaciated. Why me?! I definitely didn’t see this being part of my story.
I became seething angry at everything and everyone. I had so much living to do still. I felt like I had been entered into the Hunger Games, dumbfounded and completely unaware of the hardships that lie ahead.
I thought I had it all: a beautiful home and an incredible family. I was proud of the life I had built for myself. Then, like a flash of light and in the blink of an eye, that idea of perfection vanished. I went from feeling careless and free to complete survival mode in a matter of seconds. I began to question everything I had done in my life up to this point.
Fast forward to one year later. Today is my first “cancerversary.” It has been one year since I sat on the bed in the surgeon’s office and heard those three words.
I feel equal parts sad as I do happy. I feel sad because my experience with cancer is still so new and raw, like a fresh gaping wound. There are still so many triggers that are associated with receiving such a life altering diagnosis. There was a time when I couldn’t even say my diagnosis out loud without completely breaking down. It shook me to my core. Conversations about my cancer usually lead to uncontrollable tears streaming down my face. Flashbacks of the countless visits to the hospital to see my oncologist, numerous CT and PET scans, surgeries and permanent scarring, months of chemotherapy during a world pandemic, several $2,000 immune boosting injections and in-home visits from my nurse, many different medications, nights of vomiting, weeks of nausea, relentless fatigue, and of course complete hair loss haunted me. Although I still struggle with a lot of these things, at least I know now that through pain and suffering comes opportunity.
I took all these emotions and used them as ammunition to make some much-needed changes in my life, little by little. I have learned more about myself in the last year than I have in the last 33 years on this earth, a conclusion I probably would not have come to had I not gone through what I had in the last 365 days.
I have learned that I matter to me now. I decided to take my cancer as an opportunity and use it as a catalyst to do better and be better in this world. I vow to take better care of my body, slow down and be more present, let go of all that burdens me, and live fully as my authentic self. With this, wonderful things started happening. I clawed my way out of the deep, dark hole I put myself in and swam my way back to the surface to take the biggest inhale of fresh, glorious air that I had been deprived of since the moment I found out I had cancer. I have been able to find the silver lining in all the chaos and it’s brought me such resolution. I am a completely different person than I was on that dreadful day and I am happy for my growth.
As awful and belligerent as cancer is, I am thankful. I am thankful that cancer shook up my life and gave me the opportunity rebuild all the pieces. I am thankful for and always inspired by all the young adult cancer survivor and thrivers I have met along the way, who now have a special place in my heart. Thank you for allowing me to share my story. I am grateful to be alive!!
To many more cancerversaries ahead!