Hearing the words: “You have cancer” affects everyone differently. When David Scott was diagnosed with testicular cancer eight years ago and heard those words, he knew he was facing an enormous challenge.
“I know I’ve changed after surviving cancer – you’d be a fool not to. Although I have only beaten it for now, I’ve beaten it, and that’s all that matters. I was told if this was the 1960s, the cancer would have taken me out in six months – it’s an aggressive type that spreads quickly, but it’s also receptive to chemotherapy and survival rates are at more than 90%.
“I read a story about surviving and getting through chemo. An army guy said to a testicular cancer survivor that he didn’t know it yet, but you’re lucky to have this. When you get over it, it changes you for good, for the better… As long as you survive it!
“It’s like that for most survivors, certainly the more positive ones I’ve met during my remission – there’s this divide you cross and never come back over. But it’s okay – I wouldn’t go back over that line as you live better on this side of it. We share something quite unique.
“I live a far healthier life – I eat and sleep well, and I took up running again. Now I’m a triathlete and I completed my first Ironman 70.3 earlier this year, my first marathon last year and the Two Oceans Ultra this year.
“I probably have a much stronger focus on health and fitness than most people, but stress is something to always keep a check on; it’s an unknown variable.”
‘What I learnt from cancer’
“I never asked to do this journey, but a journey it became. And it didn’t finish after treatment either. When you have a shadowy ‘death date’, no matter what the prognosis, you still believe you could be the percentile that doesn’t make it. Or that your body does not respond to chemo.
“From day one, project management came to the fore. You have to deal with so many different things at the same time – reading blood charts, medical terms, coping and recovery, your loved ones’ attitude (and they may need help too).
“Carers’ lives are changed too and in the end this disease is bigger than the sum of its parts. The patient who goes through chemo isn’t the only one suffering. The people around that person have a lot of decisions and changes to make.
“You age wisely within the timeframe.
“Being on the other side, life’s better, more visceral, more real. You take a different approach to nonsense and where and how you spend your time becomes crucial.
“You also learn that you have to give back. It’s criminal to go through something like this and not give back to others and help them get better.”
“Get involved. By helping others and getting involved post chemo, I was able to deal with my emotions and anxieties that can take years to get over. People don’t understand that cancer is as much a physical illness as it is a mental one later when you’re in remission.
“Unfortunately cancer wasn’t done with me yet. My late father was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer a few years ago. He died within 18 months. But he fought bravely.
“I believe I was the best person in my family to help him go through it, even though he (we) knew treatment was palliative until the inevitable.
“You always hope and must have it. Cancer can be beaten and often is, but cancer also wins. Lives are forever changed, whether it’s a triumph or loss.”