One cancer survivor describes the impact of the words of support from other patients with cancer throughout his experience that helped pull him out of devastation.
Looking back over the five-plus years of my cancer journey, I’ve found the most meaningful action from others to be whenever they exemplified that success was possible.
In 2016, I’d been living in New York City, engaged to my now wife, and building a thriving career when cancer first came along and unleashed its devastation. I’d been healthy my whole life and didn’t know anyone else around my age that had dealt with cancer.
So after the blur of biopsies, surgeon appointments and meetings with different oncologists where I found myself touring a treatment facility and preparing to undergo chemo, I was more than a little overwhelmed. On top of everything else, my cancer was so rare that my oncologist felt I’d receive the best treatment on the pediatrics floor, so I soon was right there in the mix with infants, toddlers and teenagers. Again, I was 30 years old.
By the end of the tour, I broke down in tears, causing a scene in front of the other children and parents. “What the hell had happened to my life?” I wondered. Between the chaos, uncertainty and fear of physical pain from treatment, (what did all those toxic chemicals feel like, anyway? Would it burn like fire through my veins? I had no idea what to expect) it was all too much.
Then, a superhero in the form of a young teenage patient made her way over. She had taken notice of my struggling and sat down beside me. Looking me calmly in the eyes, she explained that everything would be OK, and that chemotherapy wasn’t anything I couldn’t handle.
It was a moment I’ll never forget, and it was especially impactful because unlike the doctors, she walked the walk — this young woman endured the chemicals, the surgeries, the constant grappling with the unknown … talk about credibility. Once I sized her up and noticed that yes, she seemed to be doing just fine, I thanked my fellow cancer fighter, wiped my tears and rose from my seat. Then I turned to hug my wife, who’d been sitting beside me for support, and let her know that I was ready to do whatever it took. And I never looked back.
A few years later, when things hadn’t quite gone according to plan and doctors ran out of answers, I set out on my own to explore alternative healing approaches. For the longest time, I was swimming through the dark, feeling all alone and outright terrified. One day, I came across an online article focused on a cancer survivor across the globe — another teenage girl with the same condition I was fighting. I was able to track her down and we swapped stories and healing strategies. She suggested a few helpful supplements and otherwise confirmed that between all my healing regimens I was doing everything else the best that I could, same as she had done, and I immediately felt much better — like survival was possible.
All of my doctors told me they’d never seen another patient manage to turn my situation around, but as soon as I had witnessed living proof that another person had pulled off the miracle, my sense of belief hardened. And that made all the difference, because belief is everything.
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