CancerCon: Five Questions in Five Minutes...

I did not ask for cancer. I don’t miss cancer. I wouldn’t wish cancer on my worst enemy. Yet why do I keep running back into the fire?

I suppose it’s because that because I had it, I now have a very unique skill set that allows me to look at it in a different way... a way fairly devoid of fear, save whenever I have phantom ball pain.

Last year, my friend Joe and I went to an event called CancerCon for the first time. It’s run by the folks at Stupid Cancer, an organization dedicated to making cancer suck a lot less for young adults, primarily between the ages of 18 and 40. Each year at the end of April, the SC team, led by Matthew Zachary (himself a brain tumor survivor), travels to Denver and hosts CancerCon, the biggest gathering of young adult cancer patients, caregivers, friends, medical professionals, and even sponsors in the country, if not the world. It’s a sight to behold.

Joe and I wanted to do something different than just show up, wave, and say, “Hi! Here we are!”

So we rented a table, set up our laptops, and started The Five Minute Blog. The initial intent was to hopefully get nine or ten people to sit down with us to answer five questions about cancer in five minutes. We would then write a blog for the Huffington Post with the answers we accumulated.

Sixty-four people sat down with us. That one blog turned into a five-parter.

So this year, we’re doing it again... but not only in Denver this time. Before Christmas, the amazing folks at Gilda’s Club in Madison, WI asked if I would be willing to be the keynote speaker for the Midwest Young Adult Cancer Conference, coincidentally over the same weekend as CancerCon. It was such an honor to be asked that I gladly accepted.

What some might see as a dilemma, I see as an opportunity. With that in mind, Joe and I are going to be in Denver from Wednesday night. On Friday afternoon, while Joe is feverishly typing away at our table at CancerCon, I will be on a plane to Madison, WI for the keynote on Saturday morning.

And then, they’re letting me do the Five Minute Blog from there, as well. Two cities. Two conferences. Two guys. Two laptops. Twenty fingers.

And five questions. Like I did last year, I’m fully prepared to answer them honestly. I would never ask someone to do something I’m not prepared to do myself. With that in mind, here are this year’s questions:

1. What is one way cancer has changed you?

For me, cancer gave me a perspective shift. I think before my diagnosis, I was content to let things happen. After treatment, I realized that my time might be a bit more limited on this earth than I think, so I stopped procrastinating in many areas of my life. Now if I want something, I fight for it.

2. What is one thing you absolutely did not expect during cancer, good or bad?

I think did not expect that a few people would “ghost” me. Meaning, I had assumed we were good friends, but when the diagnosis came up, they quietly disappeared. One person called with a mea culpa near the end of treatment, but a few never came back. And it’s been fifteen years.

3. Name one person, moment, or thing that made you laugh during cancer.

The first time my friend Chris saw me bald, he said, “You know, you look like the tip of my dick.” Chalk it up to youth, because when I reminded him a couple of years ago that he said it, he said, “Dude, I’m surprised you didn’t try to kick the shit out of me. I would have tried to kick the shit out of me.”

4. Physically or psychologically, what is the most ridiculous side effect you experienced?

When I first started chemotherapy, I didn’t quite realize that I hadn’t gone number-two in almost two weeks. The chemo had basically shut down the inner workings of waste disposal. After four days on Reglin, Metamucil, Prune Juice and a prayer, I had to pay for the damage that I caused to the bathroom of a local Chinese restaurant.

5. What makes you want to make a difference in the lives of others with cancer?

With what I know, I can’t just sit back and say nothing. I know people who have jumped in with both feet to help others, and I know people who have quietly gone back to their lives with not a lick of looking back. I don’t fault them; people have to do what they have to do to cope, survive, and thrive. I made a lot of mistakes during my treatment, but it’s in those mistakes that I found information. And it’s through the dissemination of that information that I found wisdom. Staying with this, talking about it, learning about it, makes me a better advocate, and hopefully, a better human.

So there you have it. Joe and I can’t wait to hear what you have to say, and be looking for your answers coming up in the next few weeks. Safe travels, y’all!

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