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I Am Not Your Hero Because I Survived Testicular Cancer

I wrote the first version of this post a long time ago. Prompted by my then neighbor remarking something along the line of “You’re a ***damn hero to me. You’ve beat something that should have killed you.” It was something along those lines. Anyway, he meant it. I know this because this is a guy that doesn’t mince words. When he says something, he means it with heart. And I went to bed that night, a little drunk, but a lot in thought.

Hero. What does that mean? What makes one a hero? The dictionary defines a hero as such: A person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.

I’ve been called a lot of things in my lifetime. The majority of these things was nothing good, so I won’t go into the trouble of listing it out here. Just use your imagination. But until that conversation, I had never been called a hero, and I didn’t know how it was supposed to make me feel.

On the one hand, it did inflate my ego for a bit. It felt good. On the other hand, it wasn’t really a label that I wanted.

There are some people who shun the label, and those that seek it. They do things that are heroic in nature, and decline the praise, or they intentionally do things to seem like they are worthy of that praise. Me? I don’t do either of those. I say thank you to the good-natured comments I receive, and I never intentionally seek those comments. The more I thought about it, the more I started to stew.

I do not want to be…

I am not, your hero.

People like to talk about how strong you are when you beat cancer. That you are a winner of battles. And I’ve never felt OK with that. As though somehow, those who lost their lives to this bastard beast were somehow weaker, and not winners. When I’ve found that most of the time, those people were a hell of a lot stronger than I can ever dream of being. Those people won life by fighting till the end, by inspiring others with their last breath. By always thinking about others before themselves.

John Taylor card
This is a card I received from a dear online friend named Scott. Sent to me during his battle with glioblastoma that would claim his life a few months later.

Scott was the very definition of a warrior. Going through this hellish Crossfit WOD after leaving the hospital receiving radiation treatment. I mean, a true badass. Am I to believe that somehow I am a winner and he is not? I can’t even make it through 10 pushups now without my lungs reminding me that I’m really that weak. Let alone a whole WOD.

After Scott’s passing I did a set number of burpees as it was a part of the Serene WOD in his honor. No words can describe the pain I felt. I was sad, mourning, hurting physically, and there was no way I could give up. That is how Scott still wins. By still reminding me what real courage and heart looks like.

Scott, to me, is the definition of a hero.

But me? I am no hero. I have no noble qualities. I’ve been a liar, and a cheat in my life. I have failed others just as much as I’ve failed myself. I have gotten lucky a few times in the fact that I am still here. I’m not the greatest of husbands, or greatest of fathers. Not the greatest son, or brother, or friend, or coworker. I know this. I try, but I know deep down I could be much better.

No, I am no hero. I am but a simple dude. I wake in the morning grumpy like everyone else. I go to bed grumpy like most. I have fun when I can, and I get bored very easily. Sometimes I stay up late playing Mario with my son, some nights I just tell him I’m tired in crawl in bed at 8:30 p.m.

No, I am no hero.

Save your heroes for those who truly deserve it. Like my great-grandfather. Started working in the mills to support his family at an elementary school age. And did well raising his family, watching them raise their own, and fighting his own battle. Loving his wife who had forgotten who he was, and making sure she still felt his love.

Save heroes for men like Scott, who was selfless in every sense of the word and gave so much to this world that we could never give back.

Save your heroes for the people who lay down their lives for others without even being asked to do so.

Save your heroes for those who expand our ability to treat disease with their efforts.

Save your heroes for those working 48 hours to provide life-saving care to people they will never know past a last name and a patient chart.


I am not your hero. I am merely me. And a hero? Well, a hero is so much more than I will ever even dream to be.

This post was originally published on This is Johnny T.

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Getty Images photo via artoleshko