Justin Birckbichler is a fourth grade teacher, testicular cancer survivor and the founder of aBallsySenseofTumor.com. From being diagnosed in November 2016 at the age of 25, to finishing chemo in January 2017, to being cleared in remission in March, he has been passionate about sharing his story to spread awareness and promote open conversation about men's health. Connect with him on Instagram @aballsysenseoftumor, on Twitter @absotTC, on Facebook or via email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Seven points about what is means to be a survivor
Sunday, June 3, 2018 is National Cancer Survivor Day. I've already written about what surviving means to me, but in honor of this day, I'll be sharing the seven things I want you to know about me as a cancer survivor.
1. I may seem over the top or repetitive with my self-exam reminders, ball puns and general obsession with talking about testicles, but it's important work. We don't talk about men's health enough and this is what I do to get the ball rolling.
2. I don't want it to be about me. To be frank, I don't feel like an inspiration or whatever word might come to mind. I may use my story as the narrative device, but it's the mission of men's health awareness that is important to me. This is what I want to focus to be on — not about my random faces I make in pictures.
3. Social media can be incredibly frustrating at times. With changing algorithms, there seems to be no rhyme or reason to what tracks well or is seen by a larger audience. While I do post a ton of selfies and pics of me (which seems in direct contrast to the previous point), I've noticed these get more engagement versus non-me pics, so it's what I'll do to get the message out there.
4. That being said, social media is also incredibly rewarding. There's nothing like getting random DMs and texts from guys telling me about their balls (and most the time being respectful about not showing them to me). Even though my efforts are focused on educating the general public, I'll never turn down a fellow survivor, patient or worried person who just needs to talk.
5. How I spend my time as a survivor is a personal choice. While I am super open about my journey, I don't expect the same from everyone nor do I fault you if you keep it to yourself. I choose to spend my free time on this (and reading as many books as possibly to show chemo brain who is boss). Please don't take offense to things when I just straight up say no to something else for no other reason than "it's not a priority to me right now."
6. I do feel very strongly that people who start out on social media as cancer activists/advocates and then switch into a fame/lifestyle account. This feels cheap, wrong, and attention grabbing. Don't ever forget the mission and why you started sharing your journey. (If I ever start to do this, someone please tell me.)
7. Finally, I feel a burning passion to keep going. I made a pretty public commitment to share my story and spread awareness. I was involved in a ton of projects prior to cancer, but this one is much more important. I'm in it to win it - and I won't stop until conversations about testicles are commonplace (and to be honest, I probably won't stop there).