He was sitting in a coffee shop. He had driven there from the hospital. He had cancer. That is what he had been told, stage 1 testicular cancer. He had reacted very calmly to the news, so much so that the doctor had asked if he knew what cancer was and whether he understood fully what she had just told him. He knew and he understood, but he remained calm. He had made his follow up appointment and left for the coffee shop. He thought about dying. He thought about his children. He thought about buying life insurance. He thought about selling his house and moving into an apartment, he didn’t want his children to have to mow the lawn after he was gone. But this kind of thinking, it was all too negative. He had to remain positive. He wasn’t going to die, there was no need to think these thoughts. He resolved to remain positive, to tell his family in a hopeful and a determined way: he was going to be fine.
His wife cried when he told her. She had said she needed to use the restroom, but he knew she had walked away to cry. He was proud of his children when he told them, they were strong; they were always so strong. I just want you to be normal, he told them, I just want you believe this is going to be nothing, nothing is going to change, don’t cry and don’t overreact, everything will be fine.
He had to have surgery to remove the testicle followed by 10 days of radiation and six sessions of chemotherapy over an 18 week period. Was he going to lose his hair? Was he going to be sick? Was he going to be less of a man? His oncologist was wonderful, answered all of his questions, guided his thinking, and was there for all his needs. The day before his first chemotherapy session he went to the mall and bought three caps. He drove to his barber and asked him to shave his head. The barber was shocked, the barber didn’t believe him at first, it was a joke surely. No, he wanted his head shaved; he didn’t want to see his hair on his pillow when he woke up. The chemotherapy made his eyes burn, it made him vomit, it made him lose his appetite. He stopped shaving, he didn’t have to. He stopped looking in the mirror, he didn’t want to see his new face. How was your chemotherapy? His family would ask. A piece of cake, he would respond.
A few days after his chemotherapy session he was sitting in his living room, he couldn’t go to work or be out in public for too long, his immune system was too weak to risk catching something. His house was too dark, too negative, he thought. This furniture is all black. He bought new furniture, lighter furniture and painted his walls white. Clean, crisp, positive, light, bare white.
The hair loss didn’t bother him too much, he knew it was coming back. The chemotherapy didn’t make him as sick as he thought it would, it would end soon. The post chemotherapeutic injections weren’t so bad, he even learned to do them himself at home. He knew he was going to be fine, he wasn’t going to die. He was strong, his family was strong, his body was strong. He is in remission now. He was right.