Daniel had already lived with HIV for many years when he was diagnosed with anal cancer in 2015. Given his existing challenges, he believed he could persevere but that didn’t make his reality any easier. Now cancer-free, when looking back at the experience his thoughts go to a brief but pivotal exchange he had with a stranger. Here Daniel shares those few moments and how they changed him.
Right Time, Right Place, Right Words
I was diagnosed with anal cancer on May 5, 2015. Although I have been HIV+ for over 20 years, it was during [my] cancer [experience] that I made a connection that will remain in my mind and heart for a long time.
When I was going to radiation, there was a waiting room where we were asked to wait. Normally [it was] one person at a time and [you didn’t] see anyone, but this day was different.
There was a gentleman in the room. He had a tired look and sat quietly watching the television. I walked in and said hello in my usual upbeat way. I didn’t always feel great, but I pretended that I did.
He didn’t immediately reply. [It was] as if the greeting was on a time delay. When it registered that I was in the room and [had] said hello, he looked away from the television and smiled.
As if he could sense the fear in my spirit, he offered a bit of life advice. There was no greeting. He started speaking, it seemed, [in the middle of a] sentence as if we had been speaking for a while.
“Do everything you want to do. Don’t wait for tomorrow. Live life the way you want,” [he said].
[Then] he was called to his session and I sat there thinking about what he said [and] cried a little. I needed to hear those words that day. I was having issues that morning and was ready to give up. I was in a relationship and thought that was coming to an end. I [also] didn’t know if my body, mind and soul were up for the [cancer] journey.
Based on my previous experience with health conditions, I knew I had what it took to survive but didn’t know how I was going to get through it.
A Lasting Impression
I don’t remember his name. We didn’t exchange information. [But] this moment helped me in that it gave me the message I needed to encourage my spirit to keep going.
It gave my soul a positive boost, and my body [the] will to heal. It changed my understanding of how powerful, strong and resilient our mind, body and soul [are].
I am cancer-free today. I can handle more than I think I can.
Sharing with Others
Advice I would give someone dealing with anal cancer is to prepare yourself to fight for your life. Accept help when offered and be kind to yourself.
Journal your journey. Share with others. Cry when you need to. … It will soon all be behind you.
Laguna Beach, CA
Diagnosed with anal cancer in 2015
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