40 And Moving On After Young Adult Cancer

Ever since my cancer diagnosis at the age of 33 in 2011, there's hardly a day that's gone by where I haven't been thinking about cancer. Having just turned 40 years old now on October 27th, that's a whole lot of days spent thinking about cancer! All the way back in 2011 and 2012 in the years immediately after my diagnosis and fight, I tried for awhile to just forget that it had ever happened and to move on. That's what everybody told me to try to do including my own doctors, but that never worked. How could you ever forget that somebody tried to kill you, especially when it was your own body? When it's your ass and life that's on the line at every scan, and every cough or strange pain in your body causes you to worry that your cancer has returned, and that your life will once again be over as you know it, it's impossible to forget. You can never forget that you had cancer.

Among my biggest fears throughout my 30's as a young adult cancer survivor were the fears of a life not lived, a family not enjoyed, and of the possibility of exiting this world very early without having had the opportunity to accomplish anything meaningful. It's the young adult cancer time warp, where you feel the need to accomplish things at all stages of life at the same time, when you feel like you might not have that much life to live. I've lived my life very well, and I'm proud of all that I've accomplished in my young adult years after cancer. I still have that year to year mentality and probably always will, but having turned 40, I now see my life as being on more of an arc, and that I'm probably past the halfway point of that arc. No cancer survivor ever believes that they're going to live that long.

The natural extension of this are the questions of what else one aspires to do in one's arc through life, and how and when can they make other things happen? There's other things that I've aspired to do that have been on my radar screen for quite a long time, since even before my cancer diagnosis. Some of these things will require just as much passion and dedication to achieve as I've focused towards the testicular cancer community throughout this latter half of the decade of my 30's. I'm not afraid of not having lived my life fully anymore, nor of not having accomplished anything meaningful. Now the fear is of missing opportunities to do other things that I've long sought to do. The Universe works in mysterious ways. I had just been lamenting with a friend that I didn't know when I'd ever be able to make these other dreams of mine happen with all of the commitments I've made in the testicular cancer world, when a little something happened that proved to be just the nudge I needed to move in another direction.

My 40's Will Be A New Era In My Arc Through Life

Today I'm announcing my resignation from the Board of the Testicular Cancer Awareness Foundation, and from all associated roles that I've had within the organization for the past few years. My engagement with an amazing non-profit organization such as this, and the difference I've been able to help make in so many people's lives has been a life purpose fulfilled in so many ways. I'm proud of all that I've achieved for and with TCAF over the years, and if ever I was going to step away to chase other dreams of mine, why not now? 

I'm grateful that TCAF granted me my first official audience for my blogs, and from there my writing has spread to CURE magazine, IHadCancer.com, The Mighty, and The Cancer Knowledge Network, where it's reached hundreds of thousands if not millions of people across all of these platforms. My writing has been a very powerful tool not just for myself, but for others as well. It doesn't matter what type of cancer one has, nor one's gender, age, race, class, or caste. The experience of cancer is very much a shared human experience, and it's been a truly enlightening experience to see how people from all across the world and from all walks of life have been able to connect with my writing.

Among my major projects during my time at TCAF has been the brand new from the ground up TCAF Ambassadors program. This program is unique within the testicular cancer community, and is designed to help support, educate and empower other testicular cancer survivors and co-survivors to get out there and make a difference for others, and to help bring awareness to the public about the cancer that no one seems to ever want to talk about. I look forward to seeing new leadership develop for this program, and for all the good things that I envisioned for this program to continue to become a reality. 

Working completely independently from TCAF, I got together with 40+ year testicular cancer survivor, Ron Bye, whom I had met by pure chance in Singapore earlier that year, to co-found the first ever international Testicular Cancer Summit. I'm grateful that TCAF once again believed in me and chose to support this completely grassroots and individual survivor led and initiated event in having become the primary sponsor and fiduciary for the event. The event was an incredible success, and TCAF did a masterful job of executing our vision. With a special tip of the hat to Mike Craycraft at the Testicular Cancer Society who was also on our planning committee and contributed not one but two of the amazing speakers for this event, Dr. Ajay K Nangia and Sean Swarner, we had a truly unforgettable weekend. 

I hope that the Testicular Cancer Summit is seen as a huge source of inspiration for the testicular cancer community in that you can reach out to this community as an individual when you have an amazing idea, and find the support you need to make your dreams and visions a reality, and for amazing things to happen on behalf of this community. If the 2017 Testicular Cancer Summit ends up being the last and best thing that I've done for this community, then I'm proud to leave on this note and to have that as my legacy.  

I Will Always Be a Testicular and Young Adult Cancer Advocate

I'm sorry to those that might be disappointed or let down by my decision to step away. I want to reassure everyone that I will always consider myself a testicular cancer and young adult cancer advocate, that my website and my writing isn't going anywhere, that I'll continue to write and advocate on behalf of our community, and that I'll always be accessible to it. I will just do so now on a purely independent basis and in my own time and leisure, and not in formal connection with any organization, such that I'll be free to start chasing other dreams of mine that have long been side-tracked. 

I wish my friends at the Testicular Cancer Awareness Foundation all the best. I'm proud of all that we've achieved together over the past few years, despite the darkest and most challenging of times, and wish you the greatest success in the future. After a grueling few years, I have no immediate plans other than to enjoy a lot more time with my family as the year winds down, to sit on the porch a lot more at our beautiful new home, to get back into the gym a lot more, and to just allow inspiration find me again. Oh, and we're getting a puppy!!! :-) I'll never be too far away.

Steve Pake