Hi my name is John, and I have cancer, but what cancer didn’t know, is that I’m ALSO a survivor. And it’ll take a LOT more than cancer to take me out. It all started like this, September 6, 2009 I was doing great. I was just starting to get my life on track, almost had my loans paid off, held a job for more than 2 years (an accomplishment for me) I lived in an AWESOME party house with three of the best friends I ever had, and I was about to start college. LIFE WAS GREAT and nothing was going to stop me, I was 22 and on top of the world.
Then I had a seizure and they found a tumor, in the next 2 weeks I went from being a normal 22 year old kid, to having cancer. But not just any kind of cancer, I had brain cancer. Which for the record is no better or worse than any other cancer, they all suck. But Brain cancer really scared me, I mean that’s the guy that doesn’t make it out of the movie. That’s the guy you see lose all his hair, hooked up to machines, never leaving the hospital. That’s the guy that goes down and doesn’t get back up. But I was only 22 and I had a lot of people looking out for me, so that wasn’t gonna be me.
I had it in my mind, dead set, that I wasn’t going to die in some hospital bed, with all the machines, looking like I was sick and dying. Because I’m only 22, this can’t be the end, not for me, I’m here for a reason. . .right?
So it started out with one surgery, that turned into two, next up I was going to be starting chemo and radiation. Parties, every week my roommates through parties for me, we got drunk, we got high, we were broke, but I was going to live like I was dying. Just like the song, but with less parachutes, mountains and bull riding. I kept a smile on my face and convinced the world everything was okay, cause I was, I’m only 22 of course it is.
Then one day I found myself in court, for a speeding ticket, and the lawyer wanted me to bring proof of my situation. That way I didn’t end up with community service or a fine I won’t be able to pay. The Judge looked at me, looked at the paper, looked back at me, then he dismissed all the charges, let me go, and wished me good luck. That was it, and I was pissed. I mean where does he get off just letting me go like I’m some dying cancer patient in need of charity. That’s not me, I’m 22 and this is just a bump in the road.
I walked outside, got in my car and started to ask the questions, why me, why my road, did I do something wrong, Why God, Why me. I’m only 22, why do I have to deal with this, what’s the point, is there a point, will this make me a better or a stronger person? Is this going to kill me, is that it, I’ll die a martyr for my cause of peace and understanding, is that it, am I going to die? Will people remember me? Why me, I’m only 22.
That’s when I realized the obvious, I’m not as much of a hard ass as I thought I was, and that needed to change. So I went to work, told a friend of the ridiculous judge and his pity. She looked at me like a cow looks at an oncoming train and asked “WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU!?! You have CANCER, who cares if he gave you a break for it, you might as well makes the best of it and use it while you got it!!” I just stood there for a second thinking. Because I didn’t need or want anyone’s handouts, most of all I didn’t want people to worry about me, or worse, pity me. Because this ISN’T the end of me, this is just a phase in my life and it’ll be over soon. So I realized this whole acting happy go lucky, cancer ain’t no thang act has gotta go. It can’t be an act anymore, I gotta show cancer who’s boss, and own it.
So I kept working, sometimes running to the bathroom to throw up, but then right back out and back to work. Often times I went to radiation in my uniform and straight to work afterwards. I’m just gonna show cancer how little it’s effecting me, and I’m gonna start excepting the love from more people. Because it feels good to help other people, and that’s what these people were doing. It wasn’t pity, it was that they cared. SO I stopped hiding it, once my hair fell out it was much impossible to hide anyway. I started telling people when they asked about the scar “No it wasn’t a bike accident, it’s just cancer.” JUST CANCER I had finally started to get that through my head, maybe the large hole helped. Because at first I gave it power, it was BRAIN CANCER “the destroyer.” But now it really was, just cancer. I was working, I was going out and having fun, cancer was just my side gig. Every so often I’d have a bad day but who doesn’t.
Then I went to New York City, there I got to meet over one-hundred more people, who were my age, who were fighting the same fight. Who were only in their 20’s, but who also knew it was JUST CANCER, and they weren’t going to slow down for a second. Knowing that you’re not alone makes a HUGE difference. I’ll probably ALWAYS be the youngest person in the waiting room at the Oncologists. But now I know, there are other waiting rooms, with other kids like me. Scared? Yes but we had HOPE because we had met other people who were like us or better, they had beat it, we had proof, it’s JUST cancer.
1 year later in august of 2010 I was in remission, and finally in college 😀 I had a new outlook on life, new friends, and was off on a new adventure. The next stage in my life, and it was going to be good. I lived it up, yeah my credit might never recover from getting so far behind when I wasn’t able to work, or pay all those medical bills. But I’m alive and I’ve got time to fix that. PLENTY of time, to get my life back on track, to get a new car, to start my career, to chase my dreams, and to catch them and make them reality. I was back on top of the world, this time I was stronger, on my own, and ready to change things for the better.
Then in February of 2013 I had another seizure. I’d been off the meds for years though, so I knew what this meant. I went to see my oncologist and he told me he couldn’t confirm I was still in remission and I knew I wasn’t. This time I was prepared, I’m 26 now, but it’s just cancer and I’ve kicked it’s ass once, I’ll kick it again. My father came into town from Pennsylvania just to be there when I got the news, which really meant a lot to me to have him there. Everyone kept telling me “No don’t worry, it’s not back you’re fine.” It was nice, it really helped knowing they cared, they loved me, and they really hoped I was okay. I have some amazing people in my life, but I knew, and the doctor confirmed it. I had cancer again, but this time was different.
I already had one win on the board, and I was going to make this number two. I’m going to make it look easy, even though at times it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever faced. I’m going to make it look easy, because I’m not alone in this and I won’t be the last. I want to set an example for ANYONE else who ever has to deal with this. That even BRAIN Cancer, isn’t a death sentence, it’s barely even a speed bump. I want all the others, and everyone else to know that it’s a fight you can win, not just once but twice. You can even have fun while you do it. Take advantage of it sometimes, laugh at it, and teach others to laugh at it with you. It’s JUST cancer and I’m JOHN HOLT YO!!! I didn’t get cancer, it got me.
I’ll be honest, I hate it, the chemo is horrible this time. My memory keeps getting worse, I get sick, my blood counts get low, I need help fighting infections and platelet transfusions. But it’s worth it, it’s worth the fight. I want to get my life moving and live like an adult again, but that will have to wait. Right now it’s time for me to take it easy. I fought hard last round, this one I’m gonna take my time and make sure every hit counts. But never worry, because I’ve got this, for my friends, for my family, and for every other Young Adult With Cancer I’m gonna prove that all you need is a little HOPE and a positive attitude. Everything else is easy.
Be sure to check out John’s blog at http://atasteoftruth.blogspot.com/