Getting Life Back on Track
Have you ever heard the song “What’s My Age Again?” by Blink-182? You know, the lyric they sing “nobody likes you when you’re 23,” well that was true for me. Actually, my body didn’t like me at 23. I noticed something was wrong when doing a self-check in late September 2015. I made an appointment with my primary care doctor, was sent for tests, and was told I have testicular cancer.
I thought I was in a nightmare. The words didn’t seem real. I couldn’t imagine not living my life with family and friends or building my career and exploring my passions.
As the doctors explained that I needed to get treatment at Roswell Park, I couldn’t stop my mind from wandering… “What happens now? Will I be okay? How does life change? Could I ever go back to a normal life? Who do I reach out to for help?”
Thankfully, Roswell Park and my medical team had my back and were able to discuss available options and how things would change from that moment on.
In early October, I had surgery to remove the affected testicle followed by surveillance through blood work and scans. That continued until February 2016 when the tests showed the cancer had come back, and I would need chemotherapy. I was frightened. I had heard about the side effects of chemotherapy and knew that if I didn’t do it the cancer would progress further. I didn’t know how to deal with it and reached out to my support network for help. One of them is a cancer survivor who had a similar diagnosis to mine, and they served as a source of inspiration for me to continue the fight through treatment. They shared the following quote with me that I’ve kept close since my situation – “When you think about it, what other choice is there but to hope? We have two options, medically and emotionally: give up, or fight like hell.” – Lance Armstrong.
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In May 2016, I finished chemotherapy treatment. And even though the physical aspect of treatment was over, the emotional struggle was still very real. While my support network was there for me, they unfortunately lived out of state. So at home, it was difficult to connect with people who understood what I was going though.
I was able to find others like me through Roswell Park’s Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) program. And in early 2017, I attended my first AYA meeting. It was such an informative and useful meeting that I decided to get involved in a big way — I went on a trip to CancerCon 2017 in Denver, CO with other patients of the AYA group.
As we left Buffalo, I couldn’t help recall all the anxiety I had throughout my treatments in hopes that I would find others like me, to discuss our stories and techniques for getting life back on track.
The convention included a variety of breakout sessions, venues for relaxation, and personal time for reflection and exploration. There was so much to do that I found myself barely having time to sleep! That said, I seized every opportunity I could to ask the questions I’ve had since the beginning of my journey while exploring a new city with people I can now call my friends. I had a chance to meet with fellow testicular cancer survivors, and hearing their stories gave me the hope that I’ll be ok and that I’ll overcome the anxiety.
Overall, CancerCon 2017 was a powerful and truly enlightening journey for me and I am glad I went. The information and techniques I received that weekend have given me closure on the issues I’ve faced since I first started my cancer journey. I would be lying if I said I didn’t worry about my future, but I know that I am not alone and seeing the progress others have made inspired me to get out of my rut. Since then, I have made small steps every day to live my life to the fullest and to make the most of it. I cannot wait to go back again next year to meet with my new friends and to share in the joy we’ve found and made in our lives.