04/16/2013 11:34 am ET | Updated Jun 16, 2013

26 Going on 60

When I was diagnosed with cancer I was 26 years old. I wasn't the youngest person in the world to deal with such an ordeal, but I wasn't the oldest. And as many young cancer fighters would say, younger than they ever thought they would be to be diagnosed with a serious health problem.

I had a year of treatment, which gave me a birthday about three-quarters of the way through everything. I kind of remember it, which brings me to this title today.

After about eight months of treatments (chemo and surgery at this point) I was left with not a lot of strength, and my memory had been suffering quite a bit too. It was difficult to remember a lot of things, I was slow at processing data. I was slow getting around. I couldn't really get around on my own. Not a great place to be for anyone at any age, however, this is typically something you associate with either the very young or the very old.

When my birthday did come that year (in August), I felt like I was turning 60 years old. With all the symptoms and all the delayed responses to the world around me, my bad memory, and of course my rapidly deteriorating health. To be honest, I couldn't even tell you today where I was at or what I did for my birthday that year. I was in bad shape. I think I was in the hospital for either chemo or because I was sick, but I couldn't say that for sure. This was the state I was in. No one likes to admit forgetting a small thing, like milk on the grocery run, and I was forgetting major events like my own birthday. I kept small notes on some things. I would check my drivers license to make sure I didn't miss my birthday.

As the months went by, I continued to feel very old and slow. When I finally finished treatment I did start (am still) getting my strength back. It is a weird place to be really. Young, but old at the same time. With all the stress and pain a cancer patient deals with, you feel like you age ten times as fast, I know I did. I know from speaking with other young cancer patients that this is not an uncommon feeling. You are young (age is more than a number for me) but you cannot do many of the "active" things that so many others your age can. It is a struggle for survival, when you need your strength, you don't always have it. It was quite a difficult and stressful time.

This year I will turn 29, and as odd as it sounds, I feel a bit younger with the last few birthdays. 28 was not great, only half a year out of treatment, I was still pretty tired and in recovery mode. This year when I turn 29 I am sure I will still not feel as great as 26, not feeling as fresh as a 29 year old should. I still feel physically slower than where I want to be (especially when I try to run, mainly because my leg still doesn't allow me to) and mentally I still struggle with memory (although with both I actively work towards improving both, and I am making improvements). I don't feel 60 anymore which is nice. I still feel older than I am, but younger by the year too as I eat better, exercise more, and keep moving forward with my rehab. If that makes any sense at all.

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