When I experienced a sarcoma recurrence in 2017, I was given less than a 10% chance to live for five years. Now that I’ve surpassed that statistic and celebrated my five-year wedding anniversary, I’ve proven to myself that I’m not defined by cancer statistics.
Back in November 2017, a year after finishing treatment and a week after celebrating my wedding, rather than jet setting around the world on a luxurious honeymoon, I found myself back at the hospital for a follow-up appointment.
The news wasn’t good; scans showed that cancer was back. It had been multiple recurrences at this point and doctors gave cited a five-year survival rate of less than 10%.
Hearing my oncologist lay it all out so bluntly was the most terrifying and traumatic experience of my life. My family was by my side, and I’ll never forget all of us slumping out of the hospital, left defeated and in utter shock.
The next few weeks felt impossible. I faced endless paralyzing fear while trying to stay strong for my family and friends. The weight of unresolved terror was relentless. I found it impossible to let down and relax without another trigger setting me off on waves of panic.
At the same time, all that fear fueled me to get to work. I spent endless hours researching, exploring and experimenting new ways to regain my health. I spoke with different medical experts, learning all the angles and embracing ideas that worked while discarding what didn’t agree with me. Every morning, I pushed ahead making constant, steady adjustments in search of a miracle with absolutely zero assurance that one existed.
Throughout this next phase of treatment, I had the chance to speak with world-renowned surgeons and oncologists. Not one of them said they’d seen anyone in my situation turn it around. It felt like in their eyes, I was a dead man walking. But something inside me refused to quit. I kept focused on my quest for wellness and fighting to earn my health one day at a time.
Finally, a year later, I came across an online article celebrating a teenage girl across the world who had somehow managed to overcome the same diagnosis and prognosis that I was up against. I worked hard to track her down and thankfully, she was receptive to talking with me.
This was a game changer. She provided empathy, encouragement and the two of us exchanged health tips and healing regimens. I felt a million times better after talking with her — and honestly, just after gaining awareness that someone in my situation was out there thriving. Her very being assured me that if she pulled it off, then I could survive too.
Eventually, I managed to defy the odds and save my life as well, despite the statistics. And recently, my wife, Kori, and I celebrated our five-year wedding anniversary.
We didn’t know if I’d make it to this point, and I’ll never forget how scary those darker moments were along the way. It was important to both of us that we make the most out of the milestone. We splurged on fancy dinners, an incredible spa day and Knicks tickets (great seats! Way more than I’d even consider paying before —- but you only live once, right?). It was such a blessing getting to experience this level of joy again.
On top of that, one of the aspects that I find most rewarding about reaching this stage—and being a cancer thriver in general—is the opportunity to serve as inspiration for others who find themselves in the same, harrowing situation that I was years ago.
I get to remind anyone reading this not to let statistics determine their fate, and my words carry weight because I’ve been there and lived it.
So for anyone else suffering or scared and just needing some help, I’m always here to support the community just like that thriver I met online was for me. Feel free to reach out at email@example.com
And when it all feels too overwhelming, try to remember that the only way to make it to five years is one day at a time.
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