When a cancer diagnosis is handed down a new commitment to the cancer journey is made, but for every patient, it's a different commitment with its own sacrifices, challenges and perspective.
Those of us who have cancer are undoubtedly committed to surviving. For sixty-four years the expectation that I would wake up each and every day with another twenty-four hours to breathe, explore, enjoy and experience life was shattered by my breast cancer diagnosis. For me the end of life was suddenly unnervingly close and there was simply no way to ignore it.
I made the commitment to find out everything I could about this disease, which was likely to affect all of my remaining years, and I promised myself that I would find others like me to connect with and amplify our efforts in a march toward survival.
That was six years ago. And while the urgency I felt in the first months and even years after my mastectomy has softened since that time, the commitment to link forces with those who have joined our ranks has not. In one particular area, I see two very distinct groups of guys who have breast cancer. There are those of us who are at war with our disease and eager to destroy it using a variety of medical strategies. We see it as an invader, slithering into our immune systems with the intention of snuffing out our lives. We hate it with a passion and attack it with a plan.
And there are some who see life itself as a perfect sort of adventure while accepting that we are never in control of the outcome, nor the avenues in which life directs us. We see an opportunity in our pain to experience the whole world's pain. We sense that suffering and sacrifice are part of the complete life experience and most importantly, we see disease as an intrinsic part of the world in which we live. And die.
I've seen cancer from both sides. And as I continue in this voyage through uncertainty, I've come to realize how fortunate I've been so far, but at the same time, I've become increasingly aware of my commitment to a larger purpose than simply my own survival. I don't want to spend my healthy days preoccupied with killing my own cancer when there is so much to be gained in being an active participant in our cancer community.
It's easy in a sense to be an advocate when we are immersed in our mutual struggle to stay alive and perhaps to find a cure, but harder perhaps to stay engaged when all is well. So from time to time, I like to ask myself "What is your cancer commitment?"
The best I can offer is to keep an open dialogue streaming with regard to male breast cancer and to never forget that all cancers are relevant and worthy of a cure. My intention remains the same: to beat this disease without the grim and demanding task of suiting up for war each day and to embrace every life experience, whether I like it or not, that shows up on my path.