Embracing a New Way of Life After Cancer


After recovering from testicular cancer, I feel as though I've earned a second life where I face my fears head-on.

Illustration of a man with blond hair and dark rectangular glasses.

I was healthy. I was running college cross country, and I found a lump. I had no idea what it was. I hadn’t even heard of testicular cancer before. If it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone. I want as a survivor to tell my story and help others in their journey.

This discussion will be wide-ranging and tell how our actions contribute to our own health and growth. I have no personal trainer or housekeeper, but I do have a very regimented schedule consisting of three to four hours of writing daily, walking to the beach almost daily and a five-day-a-week sauna routine.

One might think of a person with cancer as unhealthy, with a particular look of yellowish skin, dark circles under their eyes and a caved-in face. But not all health is physically seen. Some are mental. After my cancer surgery, my life was out of control with an all-gas, no-brakes attitude.

I became uncertain about my life path. There was no map or instruction book. I wore some non-conformative clothing during this time in my life and partied a bit too much. I did not study enough, even though I was a student-athlete at a junior college. For the first time in my life, I questioned if I could succeed. How did I lift my mind?

Keeping my mind stimulated­ was particularly valuable. Actually, taking college classes I truly enjoyed that played to my personality helped me want to study. I didn’t just take classes I thought would look good on a transcript. I was finding my way after many years of tests and follow-up procedures. 

Taking interesting courses kept my mind from wandering and focusing on unhealthy behaviors. Behavior is important. My mom knew how hard it was on me as a young man to be sick. In spring, she would say, “It’s a beautiful day for a run.”

I was fearless, diving head-first into the fray. I would try to run every day and beat my time or distance, even if it was just by a small amount.

Running competitively was my new thing. It helped me shape who I was meant to be. Those race days, even years after my cancer, brought me to a magical place.

On race day all my stress and anxiety would disappear. I was so free once that starter shot the gun.

Everything that weighed on my mind heavily didn’t matter then. Each race day was a celebration. As a competitor, I know strange things happen in races. I look at the places where my life diverged from “normalcy.” That is where my story begins.

There were times when I felt I needed to be alone to mentally heal after a race. Sure, I knew everyone meant well by asking how I was feeling. But I felt better not thinking about my health and just enjoying the solitude run.

Funny thing about life after cancer, nothing is better than being able to forget about your past. Those endless summers and sad nights after my surgery were all gone when I ran. 

I tended to underestimate the pleasure brought forth by new experiences. In the end, I would discover myself and the world that was to be grand. My morning moods at times glum, faded over time. This journey felt more like an exhausting routine, and I would rather stop and eat grass than keep going. My mental motivation had been renewed, over time. If a stranger were to ask me what the most important steps in my recovery path were, I’d go back to efficiency. Set lofty goals and increase the pace. I did this with my studies and with running.

I trained weekly with a local running group. I labored for six months training for my first marathon. A total of 50 to 60 miles a week, through pain, rain and windy days. I struggled every day, thinking about my past and future. Some days, it was like a cold hard truth slapping me in the face. Much like the winter chill on a December morning. The grim truth is that to be successful in the marathon is to accept the distance and respect it. Finishing was a signal to me and the rest of the world that I was not only tough, but I had recovered.

Reimagining and feeling inspired by a reflection of a new way of life, I saw the world differently. I saw things almost like stars colliding. Now I could see myself growing older, being more educated on my health. I’d been given the opportunity to have a second life. I questioned my existence before and after the surgery.

Here I am still alive, now writing daily about my experiences of surviving testicular cancer and standing tall. I’m no longer a wise guy from my youth. My writing has shown me the possible. It’s transformed my life. I have discovered my words can help others with their cancer survivorship. All of your hopes, dreams and experiences are like fingerprints in a maze of life. No one has the same experiences, dreams and fears.

No one else can do this but you. Whether you're a runner, writer or weekend warrior playing golf or tennis, each story is as unique as a fingerprint.

One must get out of the four walls once in a while. I have realized doing new things can challenge your mind. It can become too easy to sit at that desk and forget to leave it. As you may be unsure of your future, feel driven to break up the dullness. Action and change are fresh ways of calming your fears. Trying to achieve the right amount of change to calm the mind and grow is exciting.

Good Luck to all!

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