Four Years Ago

On the Day of My Four Year Orchiectomyversary, I Reflect on How Much My Life Has Changed

For whatever reason, the period of four years seems to hold a lot of significance in our world. A typical college diploma takes about four years to complete, and the World Cup (which I am told is some sort of soccerballing event) occurs every four years. 

New license plate too!

However, there is a special type of every four years, known as a leap year. Apparently, someone decided that timezones and daylight savings time aren’t confusing enough… So they chose to throw in an extra 24 hours for the year. Along with this extra day, we also usually have the summer Olympics and the US Presidential election, though the former has already been cancelled this year and who even knows what will happen with the latter.

Every year I write a blog post commemorating another year since my testicular cancer journey really began with the forced eviction of Lefty. I took a “then versus now” approach on the first year’s anniversary, and the following two years were much more humorous – “Eight Reasons Why One Ball is Better Than Two” and “A Eulogy for My Testicle,” respectfully… and irreverently. This year, I’m thinking another retrospective (a la year one) is a good approach since this is the “magical” fourth year. 

My physical appearance has changed, and I don’t just mean the whole missing one testicle thing. 

As I shared in my “holy-crap-my-hair-is-falling-out-thanks-chemo” post, my hairstyle was very important to me and I had rocked the faux hawk for about a decade. Last fall, I changed it to a side part instead and have been happy with it. 

Back in 2016, I thought my eyesight (aside from the whole color blindness thing) was fine, though I did wear clear lenses as a “fashion statement” for a few years. I now regularly wear glasses (with built-in Alexa, so I am essentially Peter Parker in Spider-Man: Far From Home) and holy crap, why did no one tell me that the world is in high definition now. 

School pictures in a pandemic…

My weight is actually about the same between the two years. In 2016, I was about 200 pounds, and I am around that now in 2020. However, it is a much healthier, and dare I say leaner, 200 pounds in the present day era. 

To say the last four years have been filled with a lot of major life changes would be an understatement.

In 2016, I was engaged, had a cat and a dog, owned a house, and taught fourth grade. Nowadays, I am divorced, two brand new kittens (though I still dearly miss Conner), and work as an instructional technology coach. I’ve still got the same house, though!

In a nutshell, 2020 has been a reset in my life. No one really expects to go through cancer, divorce, and the loss of a pet in their twenties, let alone all of these major upheavals within four years of each other. 

All three of those events caused (or I suppose more accurately, amplified) a lot of anxiety, depression, and mental health challenges, but they also helped me to grow into the person I am today. I would still give anything (even my remaining testicle) to have Conner back, but I am on the path to healing and recently adopted two new sibling kittens: Downey and Pepper. They won’t be a replacement, but rather a new beginning. 

On another positive note, I spend my time much more productively and wisely today.

When I would get home from work (after a ridiculous commute) in 2016, I essentially spent my entire evening watching TV, playing video games, surfing social media, eating junk food, staying up late and not really bothering to keep the house clean. Nowadays, I head to the gym after work, spend the evening reading, and don’t go to bed until the house is presentable (at the very least). Some nights I even get the random urge to reorganize all of the dishes in my entire house at 10 pm!

I try to prepare a bunch of healthy meals on the weekend so I can just reheat food throughout the week instead of making fancy meals on the weekend. While I do realize this makes me sound like a food influencer, they have a good point there. 

I also got a tattoo of Conner’s paw so he is always with me.

I do still spend some time playing video games – I mean, if there’s an Avengers game, I’m basically required to play it – and watching (probably too much) TikTok but overall, I feel like I’ve been using my time better than I did four years ago. 

My mental health has also undergone significant changes. 

To be perfectly honest, my mental health hit rock bottom in the spring/early summer this year. While I didn’t write or share too much about it, things were not going well for me. Between a global pandemic forcing me to stay at home (in the midst of contentious divorce negotiations, wherein my then-soon-to-be-ex-wife insisted on living under the same roof until we had reached a settlement – talk about a stressful quarantine) and the loss of Conner, it felt like the “bad” in my life was far outweighing the “good.” 

In 2016, life was more or less neutral. Nothing was bad, but it also wasn’t perfectly great. The first half of the year was incredible, but the second just seemed lacking. However, the inverse seems to be true this year – the first half of 2020 absolutely sucked, but I am now the happiest I have been in many years. I continue to take anti-depressants, have regular therapy sessions, and focus on the strategies that I’ve found help me to maintain strong mental health. 

My life continues to focus on cancer, but also not about my own cancer.

One of the most notable things about 2016 was that my entire life began revolving around my own cancer diagnosis at the end of the year. That was the core foundation of ABSOT. Nowadays, I am still in remission and relatively healthy (albeit minor sinus infections from time to time). However, I still stay involved in raising awareness about testicular cancer, men’s health, and the realities of survivorship. 

Sometimes video games give good pun opportunities

Without saying I am an expert or a “spokesman” for all cancer patients and survivors, I’ve tried to help improve outcomes and experiences through working with health care companies, other health advocates, and the general public. While I may not be living with active cancer, cancer will always be part of my life. 

So what’s next in the life of Justin?

A relatively calm remainder of 2020 and 2021 would be great. 2020 has been a lot to a lot of people, and I’m no exception. So, I’ll settle for no more plot twists in my life for a while, thanks. 

When I write next year’s edition of this post, it will be the fifth one which is somehow bigger in the cancer world than four years is to the rest of the world. But until then, as always, I will continue to seize the day – or more accurately, Carpe Scrotiem.

A self exam is how most cases of testicular cancer are detected early. Click the image for video directions or click here for a larger version

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