If you’re a sports fan, you’ll be familiar with the term “TSN Turning Point.” It is the point in the game which one team takes a decided advantage over the other. For example, in hockey it can be a hit, fight, penalty, save, or goal. I use the term relating to life all the time, and we’ve all, in my opinion, had many TSN Turning Points.
This weekend, I’ll celebrate another decade in this life. As I do, I’ll also be celebrating seven years as a cancer survivor. My twenties were exceptional, but certainly nothing close to what I would have predicted had I written a message like this on my twentieth birthday.
To complement the reasons why my twenties were exceptional are a collection of reasons they were also very tough and trying. And for the most part, the challenges I faced are those faced by most young adult cancer survivors.
Independence, social life, finances, insurance, and fertility, are a few of the more significant issues. Cancer itself is one huge TSN Turning Point, and all these other issues are turning points in themselves. For a while there it seemed my life was a turning point, non-stop.
But things have settled a little now, some of the things on that list are in hand–my hand. Others are still outside my grasp and remain constant challenges in my life.
What can I say? I’m like everyone, a work-in-progress. And I’m very cool with that. I’d have it no other way, as long as I’m continuing to work, which I am!
The past 10 years have seen some incredible turning points, here are a few.
In 1998, I graduated from university at 22.
When I left high school I knew I wanted to be involved in business. At the time, I thought I could be very successful without a university education. I listened to my parents and went anyway. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I still struggle with–and have strong feelings about–what happens in the classroom, both in grade school and university, but I think my university experience laid the foundation for me to get the most from my cancer challenges.
When I began university, I was an out-going, fun-loving guy, but I really lacked confidence on the inside, which may have been tough to tell from external perspectives. My five years at university were a turning point for my confidence and after graduation, I truly believed I could take over the world–no kidding! In fact if you asked what my goals were, I would answer with no hesitation, “to take over the world.” Yes, university also brought to light my ambition.
In 1998, at 22, after graduation I was running my own little enterprise which I had started while in school.
During the summer of ‘98, I learned my ambition wasn’t about making money, it was about the impact, about helping, and about making a difference. That is one of the most important lessons I’ve ever learned and it is a huge piece of my self-awareness and personal growth. I can look back on that summer, a legendary summer in my life, and point to that experience as the foundation for everything I’ve done professionally since then and of course, many personal things as well.
In 1998, at 22, I was diagnosed with cancer, on November 9, actually.
Of course, it was a huge turning point that shaped the rest of my life. This event probably changed my life more than any other experience I’ve had. The blessings are numerous, so are the struggles. I’m sure I got sick for many reasons, but I know a few of them were to soften me, slow me down, and to learn a little balance. I had to get sick twice to truly learn the slow down and balance lessons.
On July 20, 2001, at 25, I was diagnosed with a relapse.
By this time, as you can read in my emails, I had softened considerably; I was more reflective and thoughtful with respect to life. All good things, I believe. However I hadn’t slowed down, and balance was very elusive. That has changed considerably, though I still need work.
Balance is perhaps the lesson that I resisted most, taking pride in how much I worked and did, but I’ve learned. I’ve had a small taste of life in balance for me, and I feel it is different for everyone, but I love it. I slip every now and then, but I look at it more as life isn’t always a smooth plane, there are peaks and valleys and I’m good with that. My caution to all those like me, with a tendency to overdo it, all you “type As,” is: Don’t make constant activity your way of life. If you and/or your body, mind, and spirit don’t like it, that is. And I would argue that none of us do.
I think it was Plato who said “the unexamined life is not worth living,” and it’s very tough to examine anything when you’re in constant motion.
In 2004, at 29, I got married. It was on December 31, actually.
Marriage brought a collection of things to my life, not the least of which was the commitment to another person for the rest of it. But on a personal, healing level, it brought something I didn’t even know I was missing: My hope for me, my dreams of my future.
After my relapse, a time when all the formerly good numbers relating to prognosis get bad and all the formerly bad numbers get damn awful, I was literally living for the day. It wasn’t on purpose, and for a long time I didn’t even realize it, but I do now.
As a single guy, I really felt that there was only me to worry about. That is not to say my family and friends meant nothing, not at all, but I can honestly say that I didn’t feel any major responsibility to them. I imagine this would not be the case at all if I were a parent.
Now that I’m married, I do feel more of that responsibility to be here, if that makes sense. And ironically, the process of getting in a relationship and committing to someone else is what lead me to discover this reality that I was living in the moment totally. I also discovered that the reason I was doing this was directly related to my fear of the future. This discovery of my fear and my subsequent effort to deal with it, which is on-going, that in my opinion was the key TSN Turning Point for the rest of my life.
I can now say that I am fully living the life I have worked so hard to be here to live. I can also say that that wasn’t the case for a long time after my relapse.
This weekend, I’ll turn 30–with pleasure, I might add. When you’ve been where I’ve been, every day is a birthday of sorts. Unlike some, I look forward to racking up the birthdays. And while I know the fact that I’m here to celebrate is reason enough to celebrate, the reality is I also know that I am truly blessed to have travelled the road I have travelled. I have faced the turns and with lots of love, support, guts, attitude and desire, and I’ve made those turns and am better off for it.
Please take a moment tomorrow to remember the veterans who sacrificed so we could be here free to speak our minds.
Have a great weekend.
Live life. Love life.