Elephants And Tea - December 2019 - 44

Dear Cancer...

Dear Cancer,
While most people say you're a terrible thing,
I don't always agree. Sure, you took a lot from
me, including time, money, my sense of security, and my left testicle, but you also taught
me a lot. Wondering if I was going to die at
25 really forced me to take a good, hard look
at my life.
Prior to facing you down, I was involved
in about ten different side projects. I was like
a dog chasing a ball (little did I know I was
about to lose one). If something sounded like
it would be a cool idea, I went all in.
However, there are only 24 hours in a
day. If I'm spending 8 of them sleeping and
another 8 at work, that only leaves 8 hours
for cooking, exercising, spending time with
loved ones, and leisure time. The more projects I took on, the more quickly that 8 hours
of freedom dwindled down as I poured myself into more and more random endeavors.
About halfway through chemo, I realized
this. I made the decision to walk away from
nearly all of these projects, which seemed
hard at the time, but now, I am reaping the
benefits. Ultimately, you get one shot at life
(unless reincarnation is a thing, in which case
I want to be a hawk or an eagle in my next
life). I can't spend all of my free time doing
things that ultimately won't have a lasting
impact on my life while ignoring the people
who love and support me.

44

ELEPHANTSANDTEA.COM
DECEMBER 2019

NEW OUTLOOK

Thank you, Cancer, for showing me how I
was squandering my life.
The next lesson took a bit longer for me to
realize. As a society, we've decided that men
are not to show their feelings while women
are painted as emotionally transparent. You
showed me that I can't afford to do that. I
kept my emotions in before and during cancer. On the outside, I usually appeared to be
calm and collected, but on the inside was a
different story.
Internally, I was thinking about dying
(even though the mortality rate from testicular cancer is low), the future, and various
other worries, but I never shared that with
the vast majority of people around me. I felt
like I was already enough of a burden that
I didn't want to add more to anyone's plate.
A bottle can only hold so much. When I
would spiral into those thoughts, I would
often snap about things that weren't a big
deal. When I realized this, I started trying to
express how I was feeling and why that was.
I turned to my doctor for anxiety medication and a therapist for help. To this day, it's
a work in progress and I am attempting to
do better with expressing how I am feeling.
Thank you, Cancer, for showing me that
it's ok to be open and vulnerable.
Cancer, it's been a while since we met, so
here's an update on what I'm doing with my
life. Rather than spending my days involved
in random projects, I write and am an advocate for men's health through my blog,

A Ballsy Sense of Tumor. One of my goals
is for ABSOT to help others who have been
diagnosed with testicular cancer to find the
resource I wish I had when I first started
treatment. I couldn't find a patient-friendly
resource that detailed the entire journey
(from discovery to the struggles of survivorship) and was written from a twenty-something's perspective. I'm hoping to fill that
void and am happy when I hear that others
have found it helpful.
While that's one of the missions of ABSOT,
the main goal is to open up lines of dialogue
about testicular cancer and men's health in
general. Testicular cancer is not talked about
enough in society. My hopes are that sharing
my story from beginning to end with an open
attitude will stimulate more open discussion
and bring a larger focus to men's health in
general. Knowing someone who is going
through cancer can help make it more real to
men who might not otherwise be concerned
about their own health.
Testicular cancer, and the associated terms
such as balls, sack, nuts and more, lend
themselves nicely to puns and humor. It'd
be a crime to not utilize them. Humor is a
natural connector for people. In the words
of Mary Poppins, it helps the medicine go
down. Keeping it positive and light, while
underscoring the seriousness, make conversation easier to swallow and more apt to be
an actual conversation instead of a lecture.
In summary, it's sometimes hard to have
such a stiff conversation, and it's certainly
not always a ball, but you would be a nut to
not sack it up and do it.
This is a mission I would not have found
without having faced you, Cancer, so thank
you for being a catalyst.
Cancer, you changed my life... which is
exactly the kind of thing you'd expect to
hear from a cancer survivor. In a way, I'm
fortunate to have learned these lessons at
25, instead of later in life.
I've found what's important to me, and
how to balance my emotions and cancer
journey so I can rock this second shot at life.
I would have preferred to learn this lesson by
maybe losing my iPhone instead of a testicle,
but cie la vie.
Sincerely,
JUSTIN BIRCKBICHLER

PS - However, you do suck, Cancer.


http://www.elephantsandtea.com

Elephants And Tea - December 2019

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Elephants And Tea - December 2019

Contents
Elephants And Tea - December 2019 - Cover1
Elephants And Tea - December 2019 - Cover2
Elephants And Tea - December 2019 - 1
Elephants And Tea - December 2019 - Contents
Elephants And Tea - December 2019 - 3
Elephants And Tea - December 2019 - 4
Elephants And Tea - December 2019 - 5
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