Ambassador Bio: Daniel Sarmiento
I had surgery to remove my cancerous left testicle in April 2012 and a recurrence of cancer in my lymph nodes that was discovered later that year. I went through chemotherapy from January 2013 to April 2013.
I thought I was in the clear after surgery. I thought I found it so early that I was going to return to my normal life with one less testicle. It turns out that the surgery is not the only place where things could go wrong. The place where my life was impacted most was my family. My wife changed after my surgery and became argumentative and distant from me. Life was difficult without a supportive spouse to help me through my recovery, but it got even worse when the cancer came back. The bad relations with my wife came to a head and we separated in the same week I had to start chemotherapy.
I started chemotherapy heartbroken and scared. I had my sister and parents to support me, but I was hurt deeply before any medication was infused. Things looked really grim, but I pressed on because my two boys needed their dad to live.
A side note for context, I spent most of my life physically active with weight training and martial arts. The year before my surgery was a big transformation year for me because I started long distance running and had three half-marathons accomplished and was in the best shape of my life. In fact, after my surgery I finally decided to stop staying "I'll never do a full marathon" and signed up for the 2013 LA Marathon. That big goal had to be put aside after I found out the cancer came back and that I would have to go into chemotherapy.
The first weeks of chemo were a blur, but I remember feeling my strength fade away and how depressing that was. I remember my hair falling out and not making a big deal out of it. I actually enjoyed the convenience of being smooth all over. Most of all, I remember how dark my mind became. I felt terrible all the time, angry at the world, and lonely because nobody could understand what I was going through.
During my time at the infusion center, I spent a lot of time in introspection and realized I needed to have better focus on whatever reason I am trying to survive for. I lost so much during that time including my wife, quality time with my children, and my hard earned strength. I needed to know what is my light at the end of the tunnel.
To help with my focus, I got two rings to keep with me at all times. They represent my promise to each of my boys that I will be strong and that I will live a good life and be a good example to them. Ever since I got out from treatment, every day has been about making the most out of life with my boys and regaining the strength that the chemotherapy took away from me.
I got annual passes to Disneyland for me and my boys and we went at every and any opportunity. I started running again, which was difficult because of the lung damage from the Cisplatin. It started with a 5k in the summer of 2013, then a half marathon in September 2013, then another in October, another in February, and the climax was in 2014 when I ran the LA Marathon.
When I think about how Testicular Cancer has impacted my life, I think about what it has given to me and taken away from me. For example, it has given me spectacular focus on what is important in my life by taking away my quality time with my kids and taking away my strength. I had to work hard to regain what was important to me. Testicular Cancer showed me just how deep into the darkness my mind could go and gave me a proper appreciation for the pursuit of happiness.
It took some time and distance, but I know now that my life was improved because of the experience. I learned a few new things about enduring difficult experiences and I don't take my time on Earth for granted.