Today we bring you Part Two of guest blogger Ted Sibley's story of surviving childhood germ cell cancer. In Part One, Ted shared details of his diagnosis, treatment and the immediate aftermath. In today's installment of this four-part series, Ted shares the story of his early adulthood:
Cancer was behind me, and my focus shifted to a world without oncologists, CT scans, and specialists. For the first time in 5 years I looked at myself not as a 'cancer kid' but rather an 18-year-old who had his whole future ahead of him.
Read Part Two for the full account of Ted's college years - including meeting his future wife and discovering his career calling as a physician. Then follow along as Ted discovers that he hasn't entirely left cancer behind him:
All I had was a piece of paper with my name on it: 'No Sperm Identified.' Perhaps this was a mistake. After all, such a diagnosis would not have been sent through the mail. This is the type of diagnosis you meet with your doctor in private about. “This has to be a mistake,” I kept telling myself.
A week later, I followed up with the urologist, and there had been no mistake. My laboratory specimen failed to reveal a single sperm. “You are infertile,” stated the urologist. “I’m sorry for this diagnosis.” The wind was knocked out of me and my stomach started to knot up once again. He told me about possibilities of fertility treatments, but all I could hear were his initial words over and over again. I was unable to have biological children. My wife and I would never share the joy of having a child who looks just like us. All of our visions about our children and family together had become a shattered piece of glass. My dreams of going to the hospital with my wife and having friends and family come to see our baby were gone. All of our hopes about what we thought our family should have been were disappearing quickly. My reassurance to her that everything was going to work out had failed. I thanked the urologist and drove home to tell my wife.
She was sitting on the couch reading a book when I returned home. She looked up and turned her head toward me, “Well, how did it go?” I couldn’t talk. I couldn’t say anything. I started to speak, and no words came out. All I could do was shake my head and tears started flowing. “I’m so sorry,” I eventually managed to say, showing her the test results.
We sat on the couch and cried. So many thoughts and emotions were going through our minds: anger, sorrow, and guilt. Everything came to the forefront and manifested in tears for both of us. Cancer was my disease. It was supposed to be in my past and not affecting anyone else. I could deal with taking daily medications for kidney function and hypertension. I could deal with hearing loss and nerve damage. But, never in my life had my cancer affected someone else. My wife was the innocent bystander, and now the scars of my past had resurfaced to wound us deeply.
A piece of our future was gone. And I couldn’t do anything about it.
Keep following this blog for Part Three of Ted's story. Read Part One and Two in full here.
What are the moments that have defined your life? Share your childhood cancer story with us.