Joshua Bell, diagnosed at 23

I was in my senior year in college. While student-teaching full time, working part time, trying to keep up with all my academics, creating my portfolio, applying for positions, and trying to have a social life, I kept brushing off my fatigue and back pain.

It was normal, I thought, seeing as I was doing so much, not sleeping enough, and standing for major parts of the day with bad shoes.

It kept getting worse, until one more morning when the pain began to radiate from my testicle. I completed a self-check, and after realizing there was something there, panicked.

Could that be cancer? I totally froze, until two days later when I realized I had to act. For two days I could only think of how overwhelming it all was; the thoughts of treatments, what people would think, how my family would react. On top of that, I was away at school, not familiar with dealing with the doctors or health care facilities.

“I thank God everyday that I went to the doctor when I did, because I am still here to laugh, to make jokes, to see my family, to hang out with my friends, and to make the most of my life.”

All I could think about was when I sprained my wrist a few years before, and health services wouldn’t even help me. I was living alone, and working more than I was doing anything else. How could I handle it all? How could I deal with cancer? And then, like a scene out of a movie, I looked at a group picture of my friends that I kept posted on my wall. I knew I had to act; I had to go to the doctor.

After a trip to the local E.R, and a series of tests, what I was thinking in the back of my head was confirmed, only worse. It wasn’t testicular cancer; it was Stage II leukemia, which had spread to my testicle.

Through the next two years, I would go through several rounds of chemotherapy, several minor procedures, one surgery, and endure more warming and caring thoughts from everyone in my life than I could have expected.

After that night, I vowed to not let “life get in the way of living.” Although I would now be dealing with cancer, I began making jokes about it to make sure not to lose my spirit through all of this. I made friends with the nurses, cracked more jokes with friends, never left my job, and even shaved my head before chemotherapy made it all fall out. In essence, the most important thing was not to let cancer beat me, AT ALL!

Two years ago my doctor uttered three very horrifying words, “you have cancer,” and although I don’t know when the end will really be in sight, it is important to stand up, act out, and make sure everyone knows to take care of themselves.

Only you truly know your body, and what’s right with it and what’s not. I kept brushing it off until I finally had to go – don’t let that happen to you. Two years later, I thank God everyday that I went to the doctor when I did, because I am still here to laugh, to make jokes, to see my family, to hang out with my friends, and to make the most of my life.

Symptoms

  • fatigue
  • back pain
  • pain that radiated from testicle