You might wonder why I've decided to write, rather than just curse you in silence. Writing to you certainly won't make my Valentine better. But there's a small chance it might resonate with someone noticing a change in his own body and convince him to bring his concerns to his doctor.
One hospital stay left me confined to the walls of a very small room, no one allowed to enter without wearing a mask, gloves and a gown. But what quarantine couldn't take away was the connections I could make with my writing.
Cancer can take your strength, or your leg, or your breast, or your hope. It can also take your soul if you let it. Do whatever you have to do to keep that from happening. Get up... again, and again, and again.
The conversation with my daughter was the hardest one I've had. The topics were gut-wrenching. But shining the light on them, on this disease, on what happens next, is the only way I know to cope, to help, to keep going.
A golden rule that we learned in kindergarten is still a golden rule: Honesty is the best policy. Both of my boys, ages 6 and 4, know that I had cancer, and they know that I have to get checked every year to make sure that it doesn't come back.
Cancer patients tend to bond with the pain they've gone through. They identify with their greatest pain because it's also their greatest victory. But you are not the car you drive, you are not how much money you have in the bank, you are not your khakis, and you are not your cancer.
After months of chemo and radiation, I walked out of my last day of chemo and radiation and was so excited, thinking it was all finally over. Physically, I was feeling better each day. But mentally, I was fighting a whole new battle. It was harder for me to relate to kids my own age.
There's no manual for dating with chronic illness -- there's no easy way to integrate your sick universe with the healthy without causing friction. You will feel the friction. You will be angry. But bravery is forging ahead anyway.
We're supposed to be in the prime of our lives; we're not supposed to get sick. But my cancer was misdiagnosed for over a year, and all the while my disease progressed inside of me. Doctors must be more aware that young people can, and do, get cancer.
It's not easy for patients (or their loved ones) to cope with a diagnosis of cancer. But if that first reaction is tempered with the knowledge that you don't have to beat cancer in order to have a full life, then it becomes bad news that's somehow easier to take.
Once when I was leaving a restaurant after a nice lunch with friends, I turned back to see one of my pals crying into her hands as others consoled her. Someone once told me that having cancer is like being at your own funeral. At that moment, that is exactly how I felt.
After dealing with cancer for a few months now, I'm realizing that Hollywood may have -- are you ready for this? -- sensationalized what it's like to have cancer. Also, Julia Roberts is potentially deadly.
Winning this kind of battle gives you great perspective on how you spend your time. I have gained an unusual confidence to prioritize my time and enjoy life (and spend as little time as possible focusing on the negative).
Never in my life did I think I would ever hear the word "cancer" in reference to me. After all, I have devoted my life to fitness, healthy living and nutrition. Turns out, you can't always outsmart genetics. They actually have something to do with it.