Daily Inspiration - Reflections of a Young Adult Cancer Survivor
These are short blogs of my reflections on life as a young adult cancer survivor, and the wisdom and meaning I find behind the many life coaching type memes that you can find all over the Internet and social media. I had previously been posting these on Instagram, but as my reflections are my own work and content, I wanted to make sure that this content was represented for all to see on my website. Check back often! These posts won't literally be daily, but there will be new content here quite often! - Steve
We were out for dinner tonight, and eventually a beautiful young woman in her 20's walked in and sat down at the table across from us with some friends. Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a semi-colon tattoo down her side, and all I could do was just smile, happy that she didn't do it, happy that she was able to overcome her demons and that she was still here, and what a waste it would have been.
Do I even really need to post this one? It's a lesson that's been drilled home not just once, but a few times with me. I always had my entire life in front of me and plenty of time to do everything I wanted, until I was diagnosed with cancer. Ever since then, there's never been a such things as next year, or 5 or 10 years from now, or "when I retire". I don't have a life plan like that anymore. It's a foreign concept to me now, and it's not just because I had cancer as a young adult.
Although I write mainly about my life experiences as a young adult cancer survivor on my website, having cancer as a young adult is not the only major life challenge that I and my family have faced. There have been other challenges in our lives that have been just as painful as my cancer fight and years long recovery, if not even moreso. Cancer is just what I'm comfortable being open about. There's so much more.
I’ve been saying for a while now that our attitudes and beliefs are self-fulfilling prophecies. If you believe in yourself with all of your heart and soul, and try to be the best person that you can be every day to overcome your challenges, that eventually you’ll find the paths forward that you need. An open mind and an open heart will find what a closed one will not.
I had to borrow one of my favorite Emerson quotes and adapt it to move on from last year. "Finish 2016 and be done with it. you have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. 2017 is a New Year. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense from 2016."
The fear of many cancer fighters and survivors isn't necessarily that of death, but of life not lived. For those of us that are lucky enough to get an all clear, and are freed from the chains of the medical system, what in the hell are you waiting for? Get out there!
I don't expect other people to be able to understand my life, my values, nor what I believe in. They've not had these experiences for themselves, and even I struggle to wrap my head around all that life has put my family and I through. It's okay. I no longer worry about being the only one, or that other people don't understand. What's important is love and not judgement, and dialog and not assumption.
Disconnect and let yourself to recharge, but let this also be a time of reckoning. Remember that we all want so many of the same things, but merely disagree on how to get there. We all have a story that brings us to where we are in life. If people can't respect that story, your story, then perhaps they're not worthy of your time and energy.
It's October 27th, 2016. I'm 39 years old today, and I've never seen anything that's described what my life has been like as a cancer survivor over the past few years in such few words, and with such a simple illustration as this. When I was diagnosed with testicular cancer at the age of 33, I thought my life was over, and that I wasn't going to survive. But I survived.
A follower made a post, and asked an intriguing question. She asked, if you could go back and change just one thing in your life, would you? If you did, would that change make your life better? Or, was the one thing that was tearing you apart so intensely, the catalyst for the most intense breakthrough, change, and growth in your life that you could ever have imagined?"
Having courage during and after cancer doesn't mean that you run hard-charging through every situation, treatment, and appointment, never showing a lick of fear. Sometimes courage means having a meltdown in the shower for 20 minutes in the morning before you can even get going, but you get going.
Beneath it all, this has been the true challenge all along. Cancer entering my life at the age of 33 tried very hard to make me want to hate myself, to hate my body, and to hate the world for putting my family through something so traumatic.
It’s a wonderful feeling when you know that you’ve made a difference for others, and little do these friends of mine know just how much they’ve been helping me, as well. My family has once again been challenged in our lives this past summer, and as we’ve struggled to make sense of things all over again, all I’ve ever needed to do for inspiration and guidance is to look at these friends of mine, almost like a mirror image of my own family, as a reminder of what we’ve needed to KEEP doing.
You have enough to carry on your own. Extra baggage from others shouldn't be included, so let it go. They don't need to deserve it. It's not for them, it's for you. Forgiveness is the ultimate act of self-love.
You can put your heart and soul into something for years, towards healing, evolving, learning, growing, forgiving and forgetting, or doing whatever you feel that you need to do to overcome the challenges that life throws at us. It can hurt to have invested so much time and effort towards something, only to have not achieved the end result that you wanted, but this doesn't mean that you've failed.
Many of things that I write about are reflective of challenges faced and lessons learned in years past while overcoming cancer as a young adult, but this one is just as relevant today as it's been in the past. It's not just cancer and all of it's ugly aftermath that I've faced...
Writing has always been a huge outlet for me from the earliest and darkest days, and if you can understand something well enough to write about it, you can find ways to overcome it and heal from it as well. It's just in our human nature to hold our pain within, and in essence we create our own mental prisons.
We're creatures of habit. We stick with what we know, even when it might be hurting us, and even when we're broken inside. It's easy to just do nothing and keep suffering, but is that what's right? It's hard to change your ways, to change your lifestyle, to change your friends, your social circles, your routines, your beliefs, your views, and your attitudes, but sometimes that's what we have to do in order to get ourselves out of the holes that we're in, and to ultimately thrive again.
It hurts to feel so broken like this, but a perk and right that you have, is that you and you alone get to decide how to put yourselves back together. The who and what, the when, the where, and the how, is all yours to decide, and no one else's.
Being diagnosed with cancer at the age of 33, robbed me of every bit of peace and sense of security that I had. Every bit of my life, three decades of hard work, and all of my hopes and dreams with my wife and two young children were suddenly up in the air every month, dependent on that next round of scans coming back clear, and no new evidence of disease. Anything external to this terrible life experience that was costing me on top of that, was just too expensive for me to keep around, period.
t's bad enough to have sources of pain in our lives as it is, but cancer will push you far beyond your limits, without mercy. It doesn't matter if it's a thing, a belief, an attitude, or a person that's hurting you. You have to put yourself first, love and care for yourself first, and find the courage to let go of other sources of pain in our lives.
Soulmate friends are people that can just connect with me and get me in a way that others don't, or those that are a perfect complement and have been exactly what I've needed them to be. They're people that have helped me understand myself and grow, and those that have helped me laugh, forget, and heal.
As a cancer survivor, I've felt so afraid, threatened, and vulnerable, and that my time might be cut short. It's been so important for me to make the most of every moment, and to spend time with those that just help me feel good, that can make me laugh, and help me forget.
You're the author of your life. If you're not happy with the chapter you're in, you alone have the power to write something new.
"Don't count the days. Make the days count." - A couple of years ago, I couldn't stop being afraid of cancer, and every morning I woke up so afraid. I had to teach and allow myself to let go of trying to know and worrying about what might happen tomorrow or next month.
I'm a Scorpio. I have to know everything, and have to have all of the answers, but cancer presented me with questions that I just couldn't ever know the answer to. Will I be okay? Am I going to live or die? Will I live long enough to see my children grow up? This isn't how life works.
Human beings are creatures of habit. We stick with what we know, even when it's hurting us, or even causing us tremendous amounts of pain. It's only when the pain that we experience finally far exceeds our fear of the unknown, that we cast ourselves off, and this is exactly what it looks and feels like to do.
A silver lining is a consolation prize, or something that's second best. Why settle, I told her? If you're going so far as to try to find a silver lining, why not just try to find a golden one? So long as your hearts and your minds are fully open, you'll find what you're looking for, so why not try to find something even better?
Do you have any idea how hard I've had to work to find happiness through the chaos and turmoil that cancer had brought into my life? I'm not just "happy" in my life today by accident. I've had to work on it for years, working through layer upon layer of pain, and rooting out the demons within me at every level.