The recognition of National Cancer Survivors Day in June allows us to “demonstrate that life after a cancer diagnosis can be a reality.” Our own executive director, Scott Bruun is a cancer survivor, type 1 diabetic and rheumatoid arthritis patient and is deeply connected to the issues, obstacles and discriminatory policies faced by chronic disease patients.
Bruun opened up about his journey with testicular cancer and what others who may be going through treatment can learn about life after a cancer diagnosis.
When and what type of cancer were you diagnosed with?
I was diagnosed with testicular cancer in September of 2001, only days after 9/11. In fact I remember the surreal aspect of sitting in the waiting room waiting for an ultrasound on September 12th and listening to the sound of Air National Guard F-15s as they flew over the hospital patrolling the city and the skies. For me it was a whirlwind. The doctors demanded that I go into surgery the day after I was informed of the diagnosis.
I recall that in the evening of the day I was diagnosed (the night before my surgery) my wife and I were so overwhelmed with anxiety that we went to the local Disney Store and purchased just about every “princess” item we could find for our 3 year-old daughter, Natalie. I’m sure that my daughter still remembers that night as one of the best of her life!
What does being a cancer survivor mean to you?
I’m blessed, my cancer was caught early and was treatable. After surgery I underwent about thirty days of radiation treatment and since then, knock on wood, I have been cancer free. Being a cancer survivor means being grateful for the blessing of life. It means being grateful for supportive family and friends, for supportive employers, and for the doctors, nurses and clinicians who help you through the process. Being a cancer survivor, as well as living with and managing other chronic diseases, has taught me very much, including some things that I could not have learned any other way. While I would trade away my diseases in a heartbeat if I could, I also acknowledge that in many ways my diseases have made me stronger than I otherwise would be.
What message do you have for others who may have just received their diagnosis?
You are not alone. You are never alone. There are people across our country and the world who understand the challenges and suffering you endure, and the joys and accomplishments you achieve. Your voice and your advocacy are so important. In a way, each of us as a patient is also a pioneer seeking to find a better place and a better promise for ourselves and those who come after. Keep fighting, and never be afraid to ask for help.