When I was 42, I learned I had terminal prostate cancer. I had metastasis in my bones, lungs, and lymph nodes. My prostate-specific antigen (PSA) level was over 3,200, and my doctor told me I had a year or less to live.
This was nearly 12 years ago.
The first few weeks were a blur. I underwent biopsies, CT scans, and bone scans, and each result came back worse than the last. My lowest point came during the biopsy as two young nursing students observed. I wasn’t sedated, and I quietly sobbed as they discussed the tumor.
I started hormone therapy right away, and within two weeks, the hot flashes began. At least my mom and I finally shared something in common, I thought. But depression began to set in as I felt my masculinity slipping away.
I felt so ripped off. My life was finally back on track. I was recovering financially, I was in love with my amazing girlfriend, and we were looking forward to building a life together.
It would’ve been easy to slip into a deep depression were it not for two things. First, my faith in God, and second, my wonderful bride-to-be. She wouldn’t let me give up; she believed, and she didn’t leave. She bought me a kayak, she bought me a bike, and she made me use both. The song “Live Like You Were Dying” by Tim McGraw became the soundtrack to my life, and psalms 103, verses 2-3 became my mantra. I would recite those verses when I couldn’t sleep, and meditated on them when I wondered what it was going to feel like to die. Eventually, I began to believe that a future was possible.
My bride married me a year after my diagnosis. On our wedding day, I promised her 30 years.
Prior to cancer, I count my life wasted. I was a workaholic, I never went on vacation, and I was self-centered. I wasn’t a very good person. Since my diagnosis, I’ve learned to love deeper and speak sweeter. I’ve become a better husband, a better father, a better friend, and a better man. I continue to work full time, but I pass on the overtime whenever possible. We spend our summers on the water and our winters in the mountains. No matter the season, we can be found hiking, biking, or kayaking. Life is an amazing, wonderful ride.
I think of prostate cancer as my greatest “frenemy.” It hasn’t been easy; prostate cancer has robbed me of passion for my bride. This cancer is most difficult on our partners, who may feel unloved, unneeded, and undesired. But we haven’t allowed it to take away our physical intimacy or steal our joy. For all the hardship prostate cancer has brought, I can honestly say it’s one of the greatest gifts I have ever received. It changed my life. Perception is everything.
On June 6, 2018, I will celebrate my 12-year anniversary since diagnosis. The cancer remains undetectable. I continue the same treatment I have been on for the last 56 months, my third treatment since this journey began.
Cancer is powerless. It can only take from us that which we allow it to. There is no promise of tomorrow. It doesn’t matter if we’re sick or healthy, we’re all terminal. All that matters is what we do in the here and now. I choose to do something wonderful with it.
I realize cancer is scary. Nobody wants to hear the words “you’ve got cancer,” but you have to get past it. My advice to any man diagnosed with this rotten disease is this:
Do not allow cancer to take center stage in your life. There’s time between diagnosis and death. Often, there is a great deal of time. Do something with it. Laugh, love, and enjoy each day as if it were your last. Most of all, you must believe in tomorrow. Medical science has come so far since my diagnosis. There are new treatments being tested every day, and a cure is coming. I once said that if I could get six months out of every treatment available, I could live 30 years and then some.
Gentlemen, there is hope.
Todd Seals is a husband, father, grandfather, blogger, patient advocate, and 12-year stage 4 prostate cancer warrior from Silver Lake, Washington. He’s married to the love of his life, and together, they’re avid hikers, bikers, snowmobile riders, skiers, boaters, and wake boarders. He lives his life out loud every day in spite of a terminal cancer diagnosis.