A Message from Jamil:
I was diagnosed with stage 3 testicular cancer, in February of last year, while training for my first Olympic triathlon. Before my diagnosis, I was in my prime – I was in the best shape of my life, had just gotten promoted, and I had met the girl of my dreams.
I knew early on that nothing was going to change the fact that I had cancer so sitting around and feeling sorry for myself wasn’t going to change anything. The only thing I could do was to take it head on. I wanted to start treatment as soon as possible because, the sooner I started, the sooner this ordeal would be over and the sooner I could get back to my normal life.
I knew that I was young and in good shape so, rather than wasting my energy on wondering “why me?,” I chose to put that energy toward getting through this. Since I was in the middle of training for the triathlon, the only thing I could think about was crossing that finish line.
I partnered with CNN Fit Nation and joined their triathlon team, so that I could share my story and hopefully inspire others. I have to admit, the path wasn’t easy. I remember initially thinking cancer wouldn’t affect me too much; that I’d just have to stop every month for a week for what I called “a little chemo.” I was wrong.
That being said, I knew if I didn’t get back to being in the best shape of my life, then cancer had won and I wasn’t willing to let that happen. So I fought with everything I had and, on September 14, 2014 – just 1 year after a major, 12-hour abdominal surgery and 9 months after my second operation – I successfully finished a triathlon: beating my personal goal by five minutes.
I’m now in remission and one of the greatest lessons I learned was that you need to have the will to get better. It sounds like a cliché but the mind has an amazing ability to forget pain and suffering. Of course this was difficult but life is hard sometimes and you have to know that, with time, it will get better. As my triathlon coach once told me, you have to accept your “new normal.” The sooner I made peace with my new normal, the easier I was on myself which, in turn, helped me grow into my new body and achieve better results. Staying positive was crucial: living in fear is no way to live. I didn’t just stay positive for my friends, family, patients and other survivors, but also for myself. You can be healthy again. You can be fit again. In your darkest moments, you need that hope.
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Photos courtesy of Jamil Nathoo