Thursday 10 June, 2021

A Cancer Diagnosis and Learning Vulnerability

Matt, based in the U.S., is a motivational speaker and testicular cancer survivor.

On August 12, 2016, my life changed forever. I had been puking blood for days. I could barely stand, and I felt as if I had the worst flu of my life. Stubborn as I am, I thought it would pass in a day or two and just rested at home. But after a few days of no sleep or being able to hold down food, my mom gave me no choice but to go to the hospital. 

After multiple tests, we learned my total blood count was down to a third of a normal males. They immediately injected me with six bags of blood, helping my dizziness and fatigue diminish. After resting and a few tests later, they believed an ulcer had been causing bleeding in my stomach. 

The next day, I went into surgery to close the wound. Afterward, I remember eating cereal in the recovery room with my parents, feeling great, happy it was over! Until the doctor arrived. As soon as I saw his face, I knew something was terribly wrong. 

He asked to talk with my parents in private, but with confidence I stated, “Whatever you have to say, you can tell me.” The doctor sat down grabbed my hand. He looked at me and explained calmly, “We found an 11-centimeter tumor in your small intestine and we believe it is cancerous. We need to get you to the Cleveland Clinic as soon as possible.” Right then and there, I glanced over to my parents crying and since I was in so much shock I showed no emotions feeling the need to be strong for them and Lauren who was just about to receive the news. Little did I know that holding in my emotions would only cause more stress and anxiety moving forward until finally opening up to Lauren a few days later. 

March 17 – August 6, 2016

Rewind to earlier in the year — Saint Patrick’s Day 2016. I was out with my friends to celebrate. When we arrived at the bar, I ran into the most beautiful girl there, her name was Lauren. As we talked over drinks, it was apparent that we had a strong connection. As the weeks went by we began dating, and planning all kinds of fun activities for our summer together: kayaking, hiking, beach days and the list goes on.

But suddenly, I began to notice minor back pains. Being a personal trainer, always taking great care of my body, I thought it was just from my intense workouts so I decided to shrug it off, but the pain persisted to the point where standing became difficult. By the time the summer was coming to a close, on August 6, I was with Lauren when I experienced my second symptom — vomiting blood.

August 12 – August 13, 2016

Within a few days, I was glancing over at my teary-eyed parents and assuring them that everything was going to be okay. I was in too much shock to even cry or worry about what the next steps would be. However, I found myself more nervous for Lauren to arrive at the hospital, not knowing what the future held for us. We had only been dating for three months, and to place this burden on her didn’t seem fair. 

Already given the news from my mom, Lauren walked into my room. We locked eyes and enveloped each other in a hug. Even with no words spoken, I knew at that time she was going to be my rock through this journey. 

Despite the tumor’s presence in my small intestine, blood work showed that Stage Three C Testicular Cancer had developed. Doctors were baffled that I didn’t exhibit some of the more obvious signs found within the testicle itself. Typically, these result in early diagnosis and, consequently, lower risk and less-extreme medical intervention. I guess God knew I could handle a lot. 

Learnings

All though being a personal trainer and predicating myself to a healthy lifestyle, cancer does not discriminate as it can hit even the most healthy young adults. My advice for any Young Adults reading this is if you have any abnormal symptoms in your body go get yourself checked out. Chances are you do not have cancer but whatever the issue is, it will be much easier to take care of if treated early. For most of us teens and 20 year old’s it is easy to let our EGO get in the way of check ups and opening up to others if something feels off. But don’t be afraid to let a loved one or friend know because they are here to help you along the way.

Three tips for coping with a new cancer diagnosis

  • Don’t hold back your emotions. Holding onto how you are feeling during diagnosis can cause a lot of stress and anxiety in the long run. We cannot fight these battles alone so find someone you trust and open up to how you feel.
  • You can look at life’s most difficult challenges as a lesson not and why me victim mentality. A simple shift if your mindset can allow you to eliminate negative energy and allow you to grow from your setback and turn it into a setup to help others.
  • It is okay to grieve and feel down at times, but don’t live in that state of mind. Grieving can be therapeutic if you are willing to open up but if you let this control you for too long it will turn into dwelling. So start by taking actionable steps to push you forward and rely heavy on your support and faith to guide you. 
Matt, based in the U.S., is a motivational speaker and testicular cancer survivor.

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