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To those diagnosed with cancer from a guy who beat it and is (and will be) there for you

By Nicholas Dewkinandan

Dear friend,

We may not know each other in real life, but we share one thing in common. I wanted to personally welcome to the most interesting club in the world!

I know this was not a club you were looking to join or a community you had any intention of taking part in, but it does get better.

I am so deeply sorry for your diagnosis. I know it probably comes after months of being poked, prodded, and scanned nonstop. Months of inconclusiveness from one appointment to another. Months of being told, “It’s probably this, but there is this other thing it could possibly be.” Months of being crippled by the question, “Do I have cancer and am I going to die?” I hope at least having a name to call it brings some peace to what I am sure has been an otherwise restless mind. I know it did for me.

I’m sure since going public with your diagnosis, you have received nothing but an outpouring of messages filled with love and encouragement and people saying things like, “You’ll beat this!” and “Sending all my love and prayers!” Those messages are so valuable. They are your community rising up around you. I hope you are able to cherish them as much as I cherish mine.

That being said, I hope to offer you a bit of a different message. As someone who actively went through it, I have a perspective that most of your family and friends (thankfully) could not have. Below you will find a list of the top ten things I wish someone had told me before I started treatment.

1. This sucks!

Having cancer is the absolute worst. You are literally fighting for your life. It pushes you to the limit mentally and physically. Your forearms are bruised to a pulp from the trillions of IVs you’ve endured just to get to the title of “cancer patient,” and you’re facing months of chemo, which of course means months of feeling awful. Not to mention that you’ve probably had to withdraw from school and at the very least cut your hours back at work in order to allow for the amount of time you’re going to have to give this stupid disease just to make sure it doesn’t kill you. So say it with me: THIS FUCKING SUCKS!

2. People are going to say A LOT of things to you that they consider being supportive…

…but you find VERY annoying and at times insensitive. Forgive these people now. They mean well and frankly they don’t know what to say. This is a touchy subject for everyone, and just like you, they are figuring out how to handle the situation. Remember it is way better to have a ton of people saying the slightly wrong thing, but with their heart in the right place, than to have no one saying anything. (This took me a while to realize.)

3. Shave your head when your hair starts to fall out

Seeing the bits and pieces fall out bugged me and I shaved my head, but seeing the larger pieces would have probably traumatized me. Also, when the chemo kicks in and starts messing with your hair follicles, it really hurts! It feels like you’ve had your hair in the tightest ponytail of all time for days on end, but also when you shower, it feels like it’s on fire!

4. Have one last “hurrah” with your friends before you start treatment

I didn’t get a chance to do this; I did celebrate after, but what if I didn’t make it? I didn’t want them to only remember me sick, so have a party or do something memorable. Just trust me on this one. Do it. You’ll be glad for the memories later on.


It took way too long for my tastebuds to come back! I hated chocolate when I was going through chemo and hated it after, but now I love it again. I heard many stories about people eating something they like during treatment and hating it forever after.

6. Make plans to look forward to throughout your treatment

There will be days when you aren’t feeling like a tank has just backed into you with full force, and on those days, you’ll want to have something fun to do. I sang during my treatment. The pain was too much, but it kept me sane, kept me feeling “normal,” and it hid the pain.

7. There are a lot of online support groups for people specifically with your type of cancer

Especially on Facebook. Use them! People post a lot about their personal experiences and vent. It is insanely comforting to have a place to go to where everyone understands how you feel. If there is a support group in your area, go to it. That’s why I’m grateful for YACC! Complete strangers making me feel like I’m human and not failing. Their support meant the world to me!

8. There are going to be times where you feel like a complete burden to everyone around you

I felt helpless and I honestly wanted to die, but don’t let your pride get to you. It’s ok to feel like this — especially to the ones you love most — but you are NOT a burden. They love you and want to help. Whenever you get the slightest ping of this devilish, nasty thought, remind yourself, “I am not a burden!”

9. There will come a point when all the noise of getting diagnosed finally quiets down for a moment…

…and it’s going to hit you: “I have cancer.” If you are anything like me, at that moment you will completely lose it. You will burst into tears and sob uncontrollably. You will fling yourself down a nasty dark spiral. You will play through every single mean or bad thing you’ve ever done or said, and you’ll try to add them up to see if they amount to a number worthy of this horrible disease. You’ll understand the words “you could die,” and you’ll finally realize a doctor said them to you. You’ll mourn for the life you thought you were leading and you’ll fear the one you have. After all of that, you will feel better.

10. You are a warrior

You are strong and powerful and every other cliché in the book. You are because you don’t have a choice. It’s your life on the line, and the only options to save it are to do nothing or do something. You can endure all of this — and more — because you have to. The consequences of not are just too great. And, when you are done fighting the war you’ve been drafted into, you will be unstoppable. You’re a warrior through and through.

Well, friend, that’s my list. I hope it is able to help you even if just slightly. The road ahead is really long, but you can do it. I believe in you.

With all my love and hope,

Cancer survivor since 2018

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