Cancer was the answer

How cancer was one of the greatest things to ever happen to me


Dead at 31. That was my fate.

You should have already attended my funeral, expressed your condolences on Facebook, and hopefully checked in on my grandpa.

I’m not supposed to be here.

But thanks to some luck, advancements in modern medicine, and an elite support group, I’m here writing this blog post.

 

On September 4, 2014 I was diagnosed with the uncommon case of stage 3 Nodular Hodgkins Lymphoma (exclusivity hooray!), aka cancer of the immune system, aka my own body is trying to kill me. My immune system, the only defense against disease had been compromised like James Harden’s defense.

 

I had to put my life on hold. Leave LA and move back into my parents' basement. To save my life, a committee of oncologists and radiologists prescribed 6 months of chemotherapy and a month of daily radiation.

"Big Red"

"Big Red"

I hated Big Red. This was the one chemical I felt the most in my chest, very rowdy.

 

Radioactive donut

Radioactive donut

Treatment was terrible. I lost control of my entire life. Not only did cancer cripple my health, it also damaged my relationships, mental state, and ability to father children. It tested me every minute of every day. It didn’t care that I couldn’t get out of bed or if my grandmother passed away. It was relentless, insidious, and had no empathy. It was like battling the Terminator.

 

 

But on July 30, 2015 I officially survived it's onslaught and entered remission.

 

Being in remission doesn't mean I'm in the clear. Remission by it's definition means, "temporary recovery". I still get scans and labs done since there's always a chance it can come back. I'll forever live with hypothyroidism and damaged lungs as a side effect. But even with all the hell I had to endure, there was one silver lining.

 

Cancer gave me a second chance at life.

 

 

 

POSTTRAUMATIC GROWTH

Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.

 

Prior to being diagnosed, this is how I would describe my life.

Unhealthy: I had that skinny fat thing going on. You know, when you're skinny as hell but you got that belly. Junk food and beer ruled everything around me.

Exhausted: Worked 50-70 hours a week. I was the LeBron James of sleeping at the office.

Lonely: Paulina and my family lived 1200 miles away. Visiting them once a month wasn't enough.

Distracted: I was on my phone ALL THE TIME, checking it every couple of minutes regardless of any notifications. At work, I was constantly switching between Facebook, E-mail, and IM's. Effectively destroying my ability to focus on a task (i.e. work) for longer than 15 minutes (sorry Billy!). Kind of an important skill for an editor to have.

Financially inept: I frequently found solace in retail therapy to cover up insecurities. I spent money on crap I didn’t need (I owned 5 pairs of the SAME SHOE), foolishly thinking that buying material possessions would bring me happiness. As a result, I didn’t have much money in savings let alone retirement.

 

I loved my career. Prioritizing it over many things. I thought if I was busy all the time then I was doing something right. That everything was okay. I was wrong, it was an illusion. An invisible cloak that hid my fears, insecurities and propelled me into misery.

My life was broken.

Admitting I had problems was difficult. I was scared. Scared of reality.

Midway through treatment, I began thinking if I wanted to go back to that life. My old job was waiting for me and I had a great group of friends in LA. It would have been easy to go back. But as I slowly discovered, the easy way isn't always the right way.

One thing I learned during my battle with cancer was that I was unhappy with my life. Nobody could help me, they didn't have the answers. To live the life I wanted, I knew I'd have to fix it my god damn self. 

There was one problem. I didn’t know where to start. 

Enter Art of Charm podcasts

Enter Art of Charm podcasts

I've been listening to Art of Charm podcasts for a couple years. Mainly for their dating advice way back when I was courting Paulina (their shit works!). During treatment when I couldn't get out of bed, I listened to them interview experts in cognitive psychology and social science. 

It was a life changing experience. Tons of free information. I learned how the mind works and how to identify and fix underlying issues I was having. I was hooked. I wanted to learn more.

Enter science based research

Enter science based research

Knowledge without action is useless… unless you’re on Jeopardy.

 

At a certain point, all self development books start sounding the same. I took that as a sign that I had all the information I needed. Now came the most difficult part, taking action.

At first it was incredibly difficult. Fear and insecurities were winning every battle. I'd revert back to what I was used to. Being a yes man, insecure, and wanting to take the path of least resistance.

Nothing worthwhile in life ever comes easy. I was trying to change too much too soon. I wanted to hit a home run when I should have just been hitting singles and stealing bases. Making "little wins" would eventually snowball into big changes. Fuck positive thinking, it was all about making good habits.

I started going to the gym 3 days a week. I told myself that I just have to stay there for 5 minutes then I can leave if I wanted (which never happened). I stayed true to my goal for a month and I found out that I actually have muscles! The amazing thing about working out is that it affected the rest of my life. I started eating healthier and sleeping earlier. I felt great about successfully creating a habit.

I was in control.

That momentum helped me create a new life. Below are some of my priorities and the actions I'm taking to back them up.

Be Healthy: Powerlifting 3-4 days a week. Healthy meal prep and in bed by 9pm on weekdays.

Design a fulfilling career that isn’t my life:  Created Find Foxy Films. Working remotely 30-35 hours a week as a documentary film editor or camera operator.

Spend more time with Paulina and my family: When you think you might die, the only thing you want is to spend more time with your family. I get breakfast with my grandpa twice a week. Stop working by 6pm and limit use of technology in exchange for quality time with Paulina.

Become secure: Stopped spending money on things I didn’t need. Stopped trying to impress people with my material possessions. Nobody gives two shits about what I’m wearing, driving, or own.

Become financially responsible: Learned how to want less, paid off all my debt, started a SEP IRA, invested through Betterment, and daily tracking of how much I spend.

Increase productivity: Cut down on distractions like social media, IM's, and fantasy football. Re-learned how to focus my attention. Use Freedom.to to block social media and websites during work hours. I increased productivity to a point where I can get the same amount of work done in 5 hours as opposed to 8 hours.

 

It’s taken me over 2 years to incorporate all this into my life. It’s been incredibly difficult. I’m not perfect, I still relapse. There are some days where I’ll go on social media more than I should, or impulse buy a t-shirt. I don’t beat myself up over it. I realize that I made a mistake and get back on track. 

 

The road has been challenging but I'm enjoying every fucking day of my life.

 

If I had to rate it, I’m at an 8.2/10

 

Pretty good for a dead guy walkin’