People rarely confuse me with Lance Armstrong, the Texan who has owned the Tour de France bike race for the past six years, but we have some things in common.
Like Lance, I dreamed of becoming a world-class athlete – it just didn’t work out for me.
Neither Lance nor I are terribly bothered by the pervasive glare of the media into our lives, and we’ve both developed a rather accommodating relationship with the paparazzi.
I don’t have a girlfriend like Lance does, but if I was going to have one (and if it was OK with my wife), I guess Sheryl Crow would be acceptable.
Despite the similarities, I did beat Lance to the punch with one thing: I was diagnosed with and cured of testicular cancer before he was.
My diagnosis came when I was 30 years old and had been married for two months. One day, I didn’t feel well and decided to visit my regular doctor. That was on a Tuesday morning. By that afternoon, I was in a specialist’s office – no biopsy, no blood test, just an instant diagnosis of malignant testicular cancer.
“Shouldn’t I get a second opinion?” I asked a specialist.
“I wouldn’t wait too long,” he said, barely looking up from his clipboard.
So on Friday morning, less than 60 hours after becoming a statistic, I was on an operating table.
After surgery, I was told the good news: There was an 80 percent chance my cancer would never return, 95 percent if I made it 24 months. And the bad news: It would take two years of monthly blood tests and chest x-rays, not to mention CAT scans every six weeks, to know for sure.
I probably don’t have to tell you that those two years didn’t fly by quickly. Every little twitch, every little pain became a relapse, if only in my mind. Occasionally, I was so consumed with worry, I involuntarily made myself physically sick. My wife kept telling me to stay positive, that excessive worrying wouldn’t help, but I wasn’t convinced.
If you’ve never had cancer, this might not make much sense; if you’ve ever had cancer, you probably know what I mean.
Finally, my two-year anniversary arrived, and I was fine. That was 15 years ago this fall. Honestly, I still think about having cancer, but at least it’s only every couple of days now, as opposed to every couple of seconds back then.
The long and short of this is that Lance Armstrong and I really have only one important thing in common: We’re both “survivors.”
I like to think that if he knew that simple fact, Lance would be just as proud of me as I am of him.