My six year cancerversary was February 14th, 2017. This is an essay looking back on these six years of young adult cancer survivorship. If cancer were to take me now, if today were my last day, and if this were my last sunrise, how would I feel right now?
IF CANCER WERE TO TAKE ME NOW... I'VE ENJOYED THE LOVE OF A BEAUTIFUL WOMAN FOR OVER 20 YEARS NOW
My wife is everything to me. She's my best friend, my lover, my soulmate, mother to my two beautiful children, and so much more. She's the one that's always made all that's been so wrong so right. We've supported each other through our very worst times together, but also shared in so many of our very best. After all that we've been through together, there's still only one person I'd want to be stranded on a deserted island with. Her. I'm so lucky. Not everyone is blessed with a love like this. I'm turning 40 this year. To have had such an amazing and beautiful woman along on this ride for over half of that journey has been the greatest gift a man could know. If cancer were to take me now, to my wife, thank you. Thank you for being so perfect, for providing me with such unconditional love, and for finding your way into my life so early. I pray we'll have so much more time to enjoy this love that we share in this lifetime, but if cancer were to take me now, I'm so grateful to have enjoyed our love for as long as we have. I love you. Thank you.
IF CANCER WERE TO TAKE ME NOW... MY CHILDREN KNOW THEIR FATHER
When I was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 33, my children were just turning 2 and 4 years old. Ask me what my biggest fear was. It wasn't dying of cancer or of a life not lived, but of leaving this world early with these two amazing young souls never having a chance to truly know their father. We've filled these years after cancer with so much quality time, and fun trips and adventures everywhere. A lifetime of happy memories has been created in just a few short years. They're still so young and have so much growing up to do, but at nearly 8 and 10 now, I've had the chance to see them grow so much. I've had a chance to know them and to have had an impact in their lives, to let them know how much I love them and believe in them, and to help them find their way in our crazy world. I pray we'll have many years of love and adventures in the future together, but if cancer were to take me now, I've been so grateful for these years, and the opportunity for my children and I to have known and loved each other. It's meant so much to me.
IF CANCER WERE TO TAKE ME NOW... I'VE ENJOYED SOME TRULY WONDERFUL FRIENDSHIPS
Through my cancer fight and so many challenging years as a cancer survivor, my friends have meant the world to me. Whatever I've needed in a friend, the world has seemingly provided at the moment I was in greatest need. The love that I feel for my friends, and those that have truly been there for me through such dark times, knows no boundaries. It's such a deep love and appreciation that transcends the limits of our language to describe, and my ability to express. Let's just say that if I were to depart this world a bit early, if cancer were to take me now, that these friends of mine will have an angel watching over them up in the heavens. And when it's their time to make this transition, they'll soon see a familiar face welcoming them, and guiding them on their way up.
My friends have restored my faith and renewed my hope when I had completely lost it, and have represented the very best that humanity has to offer. I couldn't have made it through all that I have without these beautiful souls. If cancer were to take me now, I'm so thankful for our friendships, and for the differences we've been able to make in each others lives. Passage of time and the varying trajectories of our lives might take us to different places in our physical world, but the bonds of these friendships are for a lifetime, and will never be forgotten. I will love you all until the very end, and until we meet again. Namaste!
IF CANCER WERE TO TAKE ME NOW... I KNOW THAT I'VE EVOLVED
I'm not the same person that I was before cancer or after. I'm a far more spiritual, connected, and compassionate individual than I used to be, or ever could have been. I've evolved more in these past six years of cancer survivorship than many might evolve in an entire lifetime. Such a huge transformation at a relatively young age has been incredibly painful at times, but now I have the privilege of living the considerable numbers of years I could have left in my life as a far better and far more evolved version of myself, and for that I'm very thankful. I'm neither afraid nor haunted anymore thanks to this evolution, and I'm free to live my life fearlessly. I'm finally at peace with all that I've been through, and have learned to be grateful for this journey. I pray that I'll have many more years, but if cancer were to take me now, I know that I'll be leaving this world as a far better soul than when I arrived, and for that I'm very thankful.
IF CANCER WERE TO TAKE ME NOW... I KNOW THAT I'VE MADE A DIFFERENCE IN THE WORLD
It's funny how having cancer as a young adult can warp and accelerate such linear concepts as time, and stages of life. We can feel this rush to truly live our lives, to accomplish things, and to make a difference for others and leave a legacy, all at the same time! I was lost for awhile, and didn't know what I was supposed to do, or how I was supposed to live my life after cancer. How do you accomplish things in every stage of life all at the same time? I was so frustrated, and took to writing just trying to sort everything out. At first, my writing was just a private coping mechanism for me, but it transformed into a powerful tool to help uplift and empower hundreds of thousands of others across the world, helping them find their way through their own life journeys and struggles as well.
It's through my writing that I found a purpose and the direction that I needed. I was meant to write, and so I've written, over a hundred thousands words so far. Being named a top cancer blog out of hundreds of entries by a huge cancer website helped me feel as though a life purpose had been fulfilled, and I've been so grateful for that. I have so much more I've yet to write, but if cancer were to take me now, I'll feel complete knowing that I put my inner talents and life experiences to good use in this world, that I've made a difference for so many people, and that I'll have left this world a better place than when I found it. Nothing is more honorable.
The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.
A special thanks to both Kim Jones and the Jones family at the Testicular Cancer Awareness Foundation, and to the IHadCancer.com team, for believing in me, and for giving me such wonderful places to share my work, and to spread my message. Namaste!
IF CANCER WERE TO TAKE ME NOW... I KNOW THAT I'VE LIVED
It took me a few years to really understand what Mark Twain meant in this quote, but I get it now.
“The fear of death follows from the fear of life.
A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time."
I was too afraid to ever really start living my life before cancer, and was afraid of not having one to live at all after. My second biggest fear after not being around for my children, was of a life not lived. My cancer diagnosis rocked our world. We started living our lives fully and completely after cancer, and have never looked back. You don't need permission from anyone to get out there and live your lives. The only person holding you back is you. We've gone to some amazing places, and have done some amazing things. We've had the time of our lives so many times over, and have created so many wonderful memories as a family, and with friends.
As I look back on six years of cancer survivorship, I'm so glad that no matter how lost, depressed, or afraid I'd felt at times, that I never stopped pushing forward, and never stopped living my life. I've lived more each year since cancer than I had in all 33 years of my life before cancer combined. That's a whole lot of LIVING in a few short years. I've not wasted a day, and I know that I've lived each and every one of them since cancer. I pray I'll have many more years on this grand adventure, but if this is it for me, if I get bad news tomorrow and learn that cancer is going to take me now, I won't be afraid, and will have no regrets. I know in my heart and soul that I've lived my life fully and completely and the best I know how, that I haven't missed a thing, and that I'll be thankful for every joyous day that I've been blessed with. I'm not afraid anymore, because I've known that the best way to survive cancer is to LIVE, and lived I have.
HOW DID I FINALLY GET HERE AFTER SIX YEARS?
How did I finally get to where I am? How do I sleep so peacefully at night, and how do I live my life without fear or worry after cancer? Make no mistake, there were plenty of days where I was so distraught that I could never even get out of bed that day, nor leave that proverbial corner. But dammit I pressed on!
I never gave up, and I never stopped believing in myself, even when nobody else did. When I had fears, I confronted them. When my own attitudes and beliefs were just getting in the way and no longer serving me, I was smart enough to realize that and let them go. I always kept an open heart and mind, and adopted new ones so that I could move forward again. Our attitudes and beliefs are self-fulfilling prophecies, including towards ourselves. You'll find exactly what you look for, so look for something wonderful. Some people had really hurt and disappointed me in this journey. I let them go too, so that I could find better souls in this world to have along on my journey with me. I found so much fulfillment with these new friends, and learned that you never need to fear closing doors, because better ones will always open for you. I learned to forgive those that had hurt me, not because I felt all were deserving, but for me, so that I could again feel love and peace in my soul, rather than continuing to have it dragged down with so much hatred. I loved my wife, and I enjoyed my family and my friends endlessly. I stayed true to myself and went with what my heart told me. When people had made such a difference for me, I told them so, and let them know how much I loved and appreciated them. I lived my life fully and completely, and found a purpose through which I've been able to make a difference for so many others. I always strived to become a better person, and refused to ever allow myself to turn ugly. Sometimes it took everything I had to not become destructive to myself or others. You don't have to be the same person that you were yesterday. You can evolve. You can become a better version of yourself, but you have to want it to happen, and you have to work hard for it. It was so hard to have felt so wounded in life, and it was twice as hard to evolve, but twice as rewarding when I finally succeeded.
As I approach 40, I realize now more than ever that we're only here for a very short time. It's okay to be afraid, and it's okay to have a meltdown. Just don't stay there for very long. There's no time for that. Our lives are made up of two dates and a dash, and no amount of stressing or worrying can ever tell you when that second date will be. Just make the most of the dash. No matter how afraid I was, I never stopped living my life. The best way to survive cancer is to LIVE! Get out there and live your lives fully no matter what's hanging in the background. I've been blessed with all of these years since cancer, but I wouldn't be where I am today had I not been truly living my life. Read Twain's famous quote again. Read it over and over, and repeat it to yourself every day to let it sink in.
“The fear of death follows from the fear of life.
A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time."
I pray I'll have many more days, but if today is my last day, and if cancer were to take me now, I know that I've lived my life fully and without regret, and that I'll be at peace and ready. This is the ultimate peace that one can feel after cancer, and it again transcends the limits of our language and my ability to express to even begin to describe how wonderful this feels, after so many years of inner struggle.
Mission Completion. Hallelujah, I'm finally there! The next chapter begins now.
Cross-posted at StevePake.com