We love getting to know new members of the You Can Connect community! David is a 34 year old survivor who was diagnosed with testicular cancer at age 17, which later metastasized to lung cancer in January 2001. After 6 months of chemo and a whirlwind couple of months, he was finally given the all clear. Almost 17 years later, he can look back on that time, as difficult as it was, and realize that it has shaped who he has become today.
We asked him a few questions about his incredible experience. Keep reading, and then send David a connection request here!
David, 34, Testicular & Lung Cancer Survivor
YCC: How did you find out about your diagnosis?
DS: When I was 17 I had just started my final year of school in Dublin, Ireland (Which is where I'm from) and I had this niggling pain in my stomach which felt like a stitch or like something was been pulled or stretched. I suppose in my early teens I had felt a lump on my left testicle and knew it didn't feel right but because there was no pain associated with it I just ignored it. Plus it wasn’t really something which I could talk about openly with people or so I thought back then, but because it wasn’t causing me any discomfort I decided to just leave it.
I was still playing football and pretty active during this time so in my mind I always put the pain down to muscle cramp or something along them lines. It wasn't until a friend of the School Principal came in to give the final year students a talk about the stresses and strains which we might come up against in our final year of school that I realised something was truly wrong. While telling us the importance about making sure we check ourselves for lumps and bumps I realised he was describing my exact symptoms and freaked out a little. That evening I finally built up the courage to tell my Dad who booked me an appointment with my GP straight away. By this stage the pain I was experiencing had become more prevalent and I was struggling to walk at times. Once I was at the GP I described the pain I was feeling and also the lump I had discovered, It felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders as I could now speak to someone about it. That same day I was sent for further tests in the hospital where it was confirmed what I had originally thought - testicular cancer.
YCC: Were you familiar with cancer prior to your diagnosis?
DS: The only experience I had with cancer prior to my diagnosis was when an Uncle of mine died of Hodgkin's lymphoma , even then I still didn't fully understand what cancer was or where it came from. The only other interaction with cancer which I would of had was that people who smoked had a chance of getting cancer.
YCC: What was the hardest part about being diagnosed with cancer as a 17 year old?
DS: When I was first diagnosed I struggled to tell my friends my exact diagnosis as I was afraid of what they would think. I could only get away with this for so long though as the cancer had metastasized to my lung after I had my operation and was now going to have to go through Chemotherapy with all the side effects which come with it. Growing up at that age was scary enough as it was so it took me a while to tell people exactly what was wrong with me but when I did I realised I had nothing to worry about and some people even sought me out to ask me questions about concerns they were having also. It was tough to watch your friends live a normal life while you were in and out of hospital constantly getting tests and check-ups done which took its toll on my schooling. I was lucky enough in that some of the teachers in the school gave me the option of splitting my final year of study and only doing what I thought was capable.
YCC: Were you able to connect with anyone else your age with your diagnosis?
DS: Unfortunately I wasn't able to connect with anyone else my own age at the time of my diagnosis but this is the reason I decided to join up with You Can after my recovery. During my recovery I rarely came across anyone my age and when I did I was too shy to talk with them, looking back on it now it would have been great to have the support of someone going through the same struggles as I was.
YCC: Were there any high points during your cancer experience/anything that you are grateful to have learned?
DS: During my experience with cancer I got to build lasting friendships and relationships with people who were there every step of the way with me. I have a relationship now with my Dad which I probably would not have had if it wasn't for cancer. We are more like friends than the typical Father / Son relationship. It was during this time that I learned to appreciate the people in my life and the thankless tasks which they had done for me. To this day I still don't know how to pay my friends and family back for the help they gave me over them years. I've also learned not to sweat the small stuff, there are some things which will happen in your life which are out of your control but what you can do is control how you react to those situations in a positive manner.
YCC: What would you tell another young adult who was just diagnosed with testicular cancer?
DS: Be curious, ask questions and speak to people, one thing I regret is not asking enough questions to my doctors! Ask about medications, nutrition and don't be afraid to give new things like yoga or meditation a try as these can help with some of the side effects you may experience. Also it may not seem like it at the time of your recovery but there is a whole world of people out there who are willing to help you get your life back on track once you've finished your treatment. You just got to ask!
YCC: What has life after cancer been like for you?
DS: My life after cancer has been an eye opening experience. It gave me an outlook on life which makes me appreciate everything I have, whether it be friendships or my ability to travel and see new places around the world. Don't get me wrong it's not all a bed of roses once you are finished treatment but it is the start of something new in your life and it is something which I will not take for granted.
YCC: Anything else you'd like to share?
DS: It took me a long time to realise the toll which cancer had on my life after I was finished treatment because I bottled so many of my emotions up and didn't speak with anyone, but once I shared how I felt with friends, family and my partner it helped me massively. I didn't let it consume who I was or govern how I live my life. It was just a part of the story which has many twists and turns in it.
Click here to connect with David.
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