We are pleased to have childhood cancer survivor Ted Sibley, MD, joining us as a guest blogger in this four-part series about his teenage battle with germ cell cancer and the effect it has had on his life. Today, 20 years after his diagnosis, Ted practices emergency medicine in Kansas City.
Everyone has had at least one of those moments in his or her life. When we reflect on our lives, we define time periods as “before” or “after” these events occurred. They are the stories we tell our friends and family. They are the reason we sometimes wrestle with “why?” My first moment occurred when I was 13 years old. Twenty years later, I still feel the effects of that initial shot to the gut.
On May 18, 1995, I was a typical teenage boy finishing seventh grade, trying to navigate both the awkward teenage years and the hallways at school. I played every sport I could and was preoccupied with a newfound attraction to girls — and hoping they didn’t notice any new pimples that had popped up the previous night. I looked forward to a summer filled with baseball, swimming, and family vacations, just 2 to 3 weeks away.
I had noticed over the past year a dull ache in my stomach, but thought it wasn’t much, really. It wasn’t bothersome until I ate lunch. I waited out the cramps. But, in reality, I had begun to have more frequent cramps and stomach aches. I started to make a daily habit out of drinking Pepto-Bismol before and after school. I didn’t feel the need to tell anyone about it. After all, I had a full summer of fun awaiting me.
I remember waking suddenly one morning, as if I had been struck with a baseball bat to my chest. I couldn’t breathe, and the pain was sharp and intense. It woke me from a dead sleep at about 6 a.m., and it didn’t go away. I stumbled to my parents’ room and tried to tell my dad what was happening.
“I…can’t….breathe…,” I managed to grunt out to my father as he was looked at me with concern in his eyes.
“What? What is it?” He sprang out of bed and jumped to my side.
“I… can’t….,” and with that I passed out in the hallway next to my parent’s bedroom.
Part One continues here, with more about Ted's diagnosis, treatment, and recovery.
I was officially labeled “cancer free” on May 18, 2000, at the end of my senior year, 5 years after my cancer diagnosis. I had done it. I had beaten cancer and had my entire life to look forward to. After everything I had faced during my treatments, all that I had endured during my rehabilitation, and all the obstacles that I had overcome, nothing could stand in my way. After all, I had beaten the very thing that had brought me face-to-face with death.
It had thrown its punches, but cancer failed to knock me out. I was done with cancer and ready to put it completely behind me.
That is, until it sucker punched me again, reminding me of that fateful moment when I was 13. Cancer would not leave me as I had left it. When I least expected it, deep wounds returned to the surface.
Next week, we'll share Part Two of Ted's story. Read Part One in full here.
What are the moments that have defined your life? Share your childhood cancer story with us.