"My body, job and health may have changed but cancer didn’t spread to my soul. I’ve still got that fire in my eyes to make an impact and contribute."
In 2016 I was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a rare bone cancer at just thirty years old. As if that wasn’t scary enough, a year of chemo and multiple surgeries and recurrences later it was explained to me the survival rate was less than 10%.
So yeah... What do you do with that? I still remember walking out of the oncologist’s office with my family in complete shock. A nightmare where you beg with every fiber of your being for mercy to no avail.
Eventually I evolved from a state of pure panic and paralysis to "OK, still breathing... what am I going to do today? The sun is out - that seems nice. Let's start there." I took baby steps, gradually returning to reality, and eventually my days consisted of a mix of denial, freak out moments, and a heavy dose of uncertainty.
It would have been much easier for the oncologist and surgeons to have all the answers, but after realizing it wasn’t that simple, I learned to become my own health advocate. Countless hours were spent on the computer trying to get a sense of all the angles. How were others healing themselves? Where were the success stories? I sought opinions from one expert after the next and dove headfirst into the world of holistic health. I developed an obsession with survival as healing became my full-time job.
Three years later, I can happily report my past few scans have come back clear and I feel better than ever. Of course, nothing is guaranteed but that’s part of the deal with cancer, one day at a time.
Along the way, I started my website and rediscovered a love of writing. Each week, I share a blog post about life with cancer, often sprinkling in movie and music references that bring me joy and are part of my experience. Mixing in pop culture can provide a sense of universal connection that keeps me feeling like part of society even while at home on medical leave.
Most importantly while writing, I try to share my perspective and approaches to cancer-related situations because I never had that for myself. There was never anyone I identified with who reminded me I could still feel normal after life went crashing off the rails. And now every time a cancer fighter or caretaker reaches out to say a post allowed them to feel safe, motivated or just understood… Well, that’s the best feeling in the world.
There’s a high level of commitment required in turning around health situations like my own and with so many uncontrollable factors, all one can really strive for is to give themselves the best chance at success. I know as much as anyone what it’s like when your life’s on the line with no answer in sight; how it may not even be possible to know if what you’re doing is working. My journey has taken constant trial and analysis and I still work incredibly hard at earning my health every day.
The fear never really goes away — not after multiple recurrences – but I’m extremely grateful to feel as good as I do today. My body, job and health may have changed but cancer didn’t spread to my soul. I’ve still got that fire in my eyes to make an impact and contribute. What better purpose than drawing up the roadmap for others that I never had?
For more blog posts and health tips, check out Steve’s website, The (other) C Word at othercword.com.