It was late March 2016
I was on my normal thirty minute commute to my normal office job in my normal car. The day before I had a normal doctor appointment for some lower back pain which I assumed was going to be a totally normal kidney stone because I drank a lot of soda and energy drinks at the time. As I was driving the phone rang, it was my normal Dr. and the news I was about to hear was anything but normal.
Cruising down the highway with the cruise control set at 70 MPH she confirmed she was calling about the test results from my appointment for the kidney stone. She asked “ Is this a good time to talk?” I thought to myself well I’m going to be busy the rest of the day and I can’t have my phone on at work so I replied “yes.” She then continued to tell me they didn’t find a kidney stone from the scan and that they found what appeared to be a tumor near my abdominal lymph node. Not understanding the reality of what was just given to me I replied calmly “what does that mean?” To which she solemnly replied “ Justin we believe you could have Lymphoma and we need to send you to a specialist.” From that point the whirlwind of a life started, new doctors appointments, new tests, unfamiliar faces, questions from family members and friends, more tests, more questions.
A week is 604,800 seconds and that week seemed to flash by in a matter of two.
The last test I had before starting a plan of attack determined I did not have Lymphoma but I was diagnosed with Stage 11C Testicular Cancer that spread to my Lymph Node system.
I found myself relieved that it wasn’t confirmed Lymphoma but then immediately had more questions, more sleeplessness and more unfamiliar faces and more tests.
I started Chemotherapy on my Birthday, May 2nd 2016. The feelings of nervousness, anxiety and fear filled me as I sat in my chair. At that point two nurses came to greet me and I will never look at or appreciate nurses the same way again. While it is impossible to erase the negative feelings I carried with me that day, the nurses made me feel as if it was their life’s mission to do the best they could to make me comfortable. I can’t say enough about Dr. Fung and the staff at the Wilmott cancer center. These are some of the world’s most amazing people and made the next few months tremendously better.
The support started coming in from every direction
From family members, co-workers, to a local motorcycle club! It was simply amazing. My optimistic mother was secretly being torn up inside. Not only was I fighting my battle but my grandmother, her mother, was also in the middle of a fight herself. This is around the time I realized that not just the chemo was going to do it, I needed to be strong physically and mentally. I began to look at every second, every minute, every day, as not normal time but as a gift. A time to live and a time to do anything possible to spread happiness and joy to those around me. Don’t get me wrong, not everyday was sunshine and daisies but something switched in my soul and I knew this wasn’t just my fight. This was a fight for my mom, my friends, my family, the man that sat across from me also getting his chemo injections who was so stricken with cancer he could no longer digest his food normally but smiled every time I saw him. I looked forward to telling his story of positivity and kindness years down the road. I couldn’t wait for the chance to help a total stranger just to see them smile and hope it made their day a little better.
Cancer is a horrible disease that needs to be eradicated from earth.
However, if it wasn’t for this experience, I might not have the same outlook as I have today. I am now coming up on four years of remission and I still see that man’s eyes glistening and can hear his laughter while we were sharing the same room getting our dose of drugs that I can’t even pronounce.
When people ask me about my battle, I tell them his battle along with my own. I tell them how such a terrible disease doesn’t stand a chance against the spirit of us all. To those who are fighting today or who are also in remission, you are not alone. You have more people with you than you can imagine. This disease may beat you up but it will not take away what it is to be alive.
You are strong! You are so beautiful! You are everything you need to beat this!
I will never forget the nurses, doctors and patients I was able to meet at the Wilmot Cancer Center. I continue to try to live everyday to the fullest so I can further spread my story along with his. I am a survivor and you are too.
Just remember there is no such thing as normal, and that every second is precious.
Justin is an adventurous optimist that always looks for the good in people. He is happily married and has a German Sheppard called Ruca. He enjoys being outside as much as humanly possible and cares deeply about life, animals and this great planet we live on. He has recently gone vegan and it has been one of the best lifestyle changes he have ever made.