In 2023, my goal is to continue building my role as a patient advocate and to support other cancer survivors in the fight through the various organizations I am involved with.
I have never been one for new years’ resolutions, but every year since being diagnosed with stage 3B colorectal cancer in 2018, I know we are all in the throes of the resolutions we might have committed to this year. I have tried to take on a new challenge to celebrate my survivorship from cancer each year.
In the fall of that year as I was going through chemotherapy treatments, I thought my goal for 2019 was just going to be to survive cancer. I had a few more treatments to go through into early 2019. At the time I was honestly living in a fog of depression and the worries that my cancer might recur.
When I was at my last oncology appointment of that year my oncologist asked if I had any goals for the upcoming year. I said to him, “just to survive cancer.” He paused for a minute then said to me," Let me worry about the cancer. I want you to focus on life. If I have anything to do with it, you will live a long one." He was so confident in his words that I started to believe him.
A few weeks later I was fumbling around the house, and I was feeling a bit lost in myself. I was just starting to accept that I was found to have no evidence of disease. It’s something that can be a bit shocking to most patients like me after the months of treatments I had endured.
One day my wife said to me, “I think you need to find what you are passionate about again in this life.” I decided she was right, and I needed to find that passion for life that cancer had taken from me. The loss of identity and purpose in life can be a struggle for survivors of cancer. I had found my goal for the new year, and I just had to figure out what I was passionate about again in this life. I knew there were three components to this passion that was being fueled in me: my wife who believed in me, my children who loved me and oddly enough the cancer that I had been battling at the time.
I had decided at that point that cancer might be done with me but I wasn't done with cancer. Every goal needs a mission statement. I think I had found mine, and the passion to go with it. I just had to figure out what I was going to do about it.
I would learn in the coming months that a goal can not be reached alone and you need support from others to make it happen. My cancer journey in many ways was just the beginning for me.
Early into the year 2020, I decided that I would continue to build my life as an advocate for others battling cancer, especially men. I joined a Facebook group called “The Howling Place,” with manuptocancer.com created by my friend and fellow cancer survivor Trevor Maxwell. We affectionately call it a “wolfpack” because of how wolves care for one another in a pack. I was so involved in the weeks going forward that he asked me to be the lead administrator for the group. I had been seeking a way to encourage men in the fight with cancer and I thought this might be it.
I would quickly find out that was to be true. I began inviting all the men that I knew battling and surviving cancer to join the group. There would be about 400 of them joining the group over the first few weeks after the group was created. We currently have 2,000 male members strong in the group.
My wife told me in the months ahead, “I think you found your passion again with that 'wolfpack' group.” I think she was right, and I could not have done it without her. I had found my passion for being an advocate in the cancer community and that would fuel my survivorship. Over the next couple of years, I struggled with survivor's guilt in the months ahead and to find my footing as a cancer advocate. It sparked a lot of personal growth and helped me to emotionally connect to my cancer as I helped other cancer patients in the fight.
In 2023, my goal is to continue building my role as a patient advocate and to support other cancer survivors in the fight through the various organizations I am involved with. I hope to take opportunities to meet up with local members of the Howling Place group for lunch or coffee. It was something that I desired early on when I was diagnosed but wasn’t available to me at the time. It was hard to find anyone, especially men to talk about their cancer. It’s something as a goal I am trying to work on with the support of others because no one can be a lone wolf in the survivorship of cancer.
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