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Approaching 40 as a Young Adult Testicular Cancer Survivor

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I have four drafts of Facebook page posts and a half dozen blog drafts on my website just trying to capture all of the thoughts running through my head. I’ve finally gotten a handle on what’s been going on inside this Scorpio mind of mine, as I approach 40 as a young adult cancer survivor.

You have to understand, for years and years after being diagnosed with testicular cancer at the age of 33, it was simply accepted in my mind I would never make it to 40. My cancer would come back, it wouldn’t be curable and I would die. I would never live to see this day… I just didn’t know when.

It doesn’t matter how “good” the cancer or the prognosis is, you always feel like you’re going to be the one, and I’ve seen that happen to people I’ve cared about. Many of us fear we’re going to be that person, and I believe that’s the fear living inside almost every cancer survivor out there.

As I approach this huge milestone, I’m remembering all of those times I was so spooked and convinced about this day that would never come, like missing out on so many life experiences, never growing old with my wife, never seeing my kids grow up, and all of the pain that came along with it.

But at the same time, I’m also remembering how I made it through those times, how I overcame it all, and all of the amazing people I had or found along the way who were able to help me in this journey. I feel such deep love and gratitude for so many.

One minute I’m feeling so wounded from all of these traumatic life experiences of the past, and the next I’m overwhelmed with love for all those who helped me through these dark times.

I also have tremendous love for and pride in myself because I never stopped believing in me, and I kept getting back up and trying again (when there were plenty of times when it would have been so easy to just let go).

Sometimes I feel all of this — both extremes — all at the same time. When you’ve been to such a dark place where you’ve contemplated suicide, you never forget it. And when you find just the right people you need to help pull you out of it, you also never stop feeling the eternal love and gratitude that develops for those people.

Nobody else can see this — only I can feel it — this almost constant category four hurricane of emotion running through this deeply emotional Scorpio mind of mine. It’s been a long time since I’ve been this fired up emotionally about cancer, but fortunately, it’s almost all good things I feel.

I’ve long processed all of the pain from this experience of having cancer as a young adult, but I’ve never really felt victorious. Huge milestones at two and even five years had both felt so hollow. Even walking out of my oncologist’s office for (hopefully) the last time ever last year without a follow-up appointment or any scan orders in hand didn’t really seem to register — perhaps because I was on my way to the Celebration of Life for another person I knew who had passed?

Now I feel it though, all of it, a victory and an exit to this thing called young adult cancer survivorship.

I think a lot of people struggle with turning 40, but I’m feeling nothing but joy towards it.

Perhaps turning 40 is the finish line my sub-conscious mind has been waiting for all along. Forget about those two-year or five-year clinical milestones — they only mean things to doctors, and never felt like anything to me as a patient.

I’m finally reaching the “big four-oh” — the unbelievable, the age my mind had been so thoroughly convinced it would never reach — and leaving behind a very turbulent young adulthood with it. Closure at last? Maybe or maybe not, but at least right now that’s how it’s finally starting to feel in the place it really counts.

My wife has asked over and over again how I want to celebrate. Part of me wants to throw a huge party, but I’ve become far too superstitious for that, as if it’d be tempting fate.

It will not be too different from past years — a modest cake and some nice dinners out with family and friends that have really meant something to me through this. I always try to do something more meaningful (and under the radar) that makes these occasions more special.

Turning 40, it needs to be something very deeply meaningful to me, and extra special. I’ve been thinking about this for a long time, and for my 40th, I finally know what I’m going to do.

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Originally published: September 8, 2017
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