Tuesday, April 05, 2016

"You have cancer" Those words hit me like a sledgehammer to my chest...

"You have cancer." Those words hit me like a sledgehammer to my chest. December was a difficult month for our family...and specifically for me. In the first few days of the month, I found a lump in my testicle that was later identified as being cancerous. After a surgery to remove it and an array of tests, I'm officially cancer free but it was a crazy couple of weeks and it really shook me. 

I didn't share this broadly back then because the word 'cancer' sounds like a death sentence. While I wasn't freaking out, everyone else would have and frankly, that would have just been more for me to deal with and I knew it wouldn't help. Cancer is especially scary when the words "You have..." come before it...but through the process, I learned that it doesn't have to be that way.

You see, I had testicular cancer which is very survivable with roughly a 98% survival rate but I didn't know that at the time. I just knew that I had cancer and that frankly, scared the crap out of me. A bit of research calmed me down a little but I still felt like I had this black cloud hanging over me. As I worked through the various doctors visits, I only gained certainty that I had cancer at first...then realized that all cancers are different and even within cancers of a certain region (like the testes or breasts), there are tons of factors and the reality is that most people - around 2/3s - survive cancer.

I'm not sharing this for sympathy - I'm doing great now and was back to 100% relatively quickly after we worked through the surgery in mid-December to remove the cancer, but rather, I'm sharing my story to let you know that finding out that you have cancer is not a death sentence. We should talk about it as a society to kill the stigma surrounding it and encourage more people to do proactive checks. Pretending cancer doesn't exist or that you won't get it only makes it worse.

When people don't know about the risk or how easy the checks for cancers like testicular cancer are...they don't check for it and that only gives the cancer more time to do damage to your body. I didn't know about self-checks and only found it by chance. Testicular cancer specifically occurs in men (obviously) between the ages 15-40 (not so obvious) which I had no idea about but wish I had. I had naively assumed that cancer was something that happened more commonly as we age...but that's not the case for all cancers.

That's what I wanted to say...and I know that more than anything, you're probably just feeling relieved right now. Somebody else had cancer but they made it, right? I'm glad it wasn't me. That works...almost. 40% of people will get cancer in their lifetime...that's a fact.

And 40% is no small number. Think about it - that's one in every 2.5 humans that will get cancer. Because of that, I encourage you to do a self check and to build that in to your regular routine. For men, it's easy to check for lumps - here's a quick (and humorous) video that shows you how...and for women, here is an intro video that explains self examination practices for breast cancer. There are plenty of videos on YouTube that provide additional details and perspective so please - take this quick step to get informed...then take action :)

These basic checks avoid what otherwise might be a more serious matter and give you what you need most to fight against cancer should it come to that - time. Let's drop the awkward or uncomfortable stigma around cancer and join together to take action today. Get informed and if you want to talk...I'm here.

1 comment:

Blessed said...

Your my hero!