It’s hard to find men who are open and willing to talk about cancer. Maybe it’s a result of the stigma of men having to put on a ‘tough’ face, or the misconception that they are less emotional, or some other reason (guys - feel free to chime in here!). But we here at IHadCancer have been trying to do our best to tell more stories about the male cancer experience recently. And the power and impact that they leave is undeniable. There are a few men in the IHC community who have led the way for the others, so we wanted to take the time to give them the recognition they deserve. Every time one man speaks up, two more come forward, and that is invaluable.
Thank you for trusting us with your story; thank you for showing other men that it is okay to be vulnerable, honest and real about what you are going through.
"How many times had I burned myself to the ground in order to keep evolving, and how many times would I have to do so again? For a time it felt like the answer was "forever," but today it is "no more." I've healed all of me -- mind, body, and spirit. My long struggles after cancer are over. I've finally mastered these rough seas, and have never felt better about life than I do today. Life really has moved on after cancer."
Steve has been contributing stories about his life after cancer with the IHadCancer community since 2015 and is one of our most beloved contributors. He has brought survivorship issues like fear of recurrence and PTSD to the forefront, where thousands (literally!) of people were able to see that they weren't alone. His commitment to identifying and tackling those topics is what landed him a residency on this list.
"When you have cancer, it's easy to make excuses as to why you shouldn't stay active. You may feel like you're too weak to get out of bed, let alone do any type of exercise. Or maybe you're afraid that exercising could hurt you in some way. I get that - when I was going through treatment for testicular cancer, there were days I barely had enough energy to get out of bed. But one day I decided that I wasn't going to let cancer stop me. It could slow me, but it could not stop me."
Josh first got involved with IHadCancer back in 2015 when he submitted this phrase to our #5words2cancer contest: "Through struggle came tremendous strength." It has since become a quintessential fabric of the magic that happens on this site when people affected by cancer, and combined with his inspiring tips on how to remain active despite cancer, he is one of our most literal examples of "strong" cancer warriors!
If you’re looking for tips on how to get back to the gym after cancer, check out Josh's guide to Working Out With Cancer .
“Got the all clear from the docs! No longer a fighter, now officially a survivor. I'm already back at work (only a week after surgery!) doing what I love. Time to embrace every moment I have in this crazy life. And for all of you fighters, supporters, caretakers, and other humans out there, know that you are loved.”
A relatively new member of the IHadCancer community, Phil quickly dove into the site by adding a brutally honest Dear Cancer and this inspiring Status. As a member of a stereotypically "easy cancer" while being an unlikely gender for thyroid cancer, Phil has lent his voice to an underserved community within the cancer sphere.
Chris, 2x Hodgkin's Lymphoma Survivor and Testicular Cancer Survivor
"A chance encounter over a year ago along with counseling and an extremely patient & supporting wife allowed me to see my destiny, my purpose for being, the purpose for my years of adversity. I know I’m supposed to help people. I've been given a couple of opportunities for my voice to be heard and I'm taking full advantage of that. I'm more determined than ever and everyone I've been fortunate to interact with I've told I won't let them forget about me."
Chris has been a very welcome, funny, and determined advocate for better cancer care that the IHadCancer team is so happy to call an ally. He has overcome tremendous emotional difficulties in relationships after his cancer diagnosis, but he has opened up and shared his experiences to help other people feel less isolated. His voice is an important one in any discussion about improving cancer care for all.
Lorenz, Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia and Bone Cancer Survivor
"There were definitely times when I could have given up but I'm glad I didn't, I kept fighting and if I can be successful in this society, then why can't you? I learned that confidence starts with self-love, [with] loving yourself first. You have to be selfish in some manners by putting yourself first but it helps you to grow and be a better person."
Lorenz is one of the first people our team thought to honor in this list for the way he has taken the social stigma associated with surviving his cancer diagnosis and becoming a fearless, brutally honest, totally inspiring and world-trotting cancer-ass-kicking icon. If you feel at odds with your body post-cancer, just listen to any one of his vlogs. After 30 seconds, you won't have a doubt in your mind of how he ended up on this list.
"By taking small steps and reminding yourself of this over and over, it does become a habit. Your normal mindset. Hopefully you will manage to become the most self confident, happy version of yourself despite the cancer too. That's how I got there, at least.
All of this is something ANYONE can do. And you DO deserve it. I’d be honoured to help you on your journey or to talk anytime."
Nikhil is an Australian young adult cancer survivor who has a knack for detailed storytelling that really lets you get inside his head and see that you recognize a lot of the thoughts up there. He specifically dives into topics of self-confidence and of how to find yourself after cancer -- and not in an existential way. Nikhil provides real steps on how to build habits that help you build confidence again after cancer. His fearlessness in encountering the difficult and writing a map that others can use is what landed him on this list.
"If there's a lesson I learned, it's empathy. I watched many people suffer greatly. I'm not sure what lottery system killed some of the friends I met along the way but kept me alive. But I do know that I was a coward then. Now, I'm a survivor."
One of our most consistent creative contributors to the site, Blake zeroes in on a specific emotional experience in his cancer journey and brings it to life for the reader through his immersive poetry. He is unafraid to dive into the dark places he's been since his diagnosis, and has resonated deeply with the community.
"Dear Cancer, you threatened my life but gave me a new one. I want to hate you, but I don't. You are what you are, and while it was a pleasure kicking your ass, I also made a new path, including a comic that's given comfort to thousands. But I guess that says a lot more about me than you...so thanks for helping me realize what I'm actually made of."
This realistic and yet optimistic perspective is central to not only Matthew's work, but his entire person. He has never shied away from the difficulties that cancer brings, but his natural inclination to finding silver-linings always gives a sense of hope when you read something he's done. Every day in his life after cancer he is finding a way to connect people and offer them opportunities to connect with others who have similar stories -- which is why he's one of our easiest picks for redefining strength.
Check out one of our favorite episodes of his comic, Cancer Owl.
"The hardest part about being a cancer caregiver is watching the person you love’s transformation from looking normal and healthy to looking like victims of war. All the while keeping on a brave face and smiling so that they don’t know how much it hurts you to see them hurt. Eventually, I was able to come up with a schedule of how I did things everyday and find a little bit of “me” time to keep me sane."
Chef Ryan Callahan is IHadCancer's resident expert on all things delicious and cancer-conscious. He stepped up to the plate when his mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013 to learn anything and everything about how cancer treatment affects a patient's relationship with nutrition. He has crafted solutions to problems like buying on a budget, getting past nausea and altered taste buds, and is always learning more to help build up the cancer community's appetite no matter where they are in their cancer journey.
"I heard the words 'it's cancer' on November 5, 2015. When I got off the phone with my doctor at that time, my exact words to myself were 'I'm not surprised.' Why did I say that? I have no idea why actually. I just know that's not what I wanted to hear... Now I am currently waiting to see what's the next move on this journey. It's been crazy but I'm trying my absolute best to stay positive and moving forward."
Keith has shared poetry with that communicates the difficulty of his cancer journey with few, but deeply powerful, words. He is willing to discuss a reality that many men won't -- or can't -- talk about… and he does it in a way that resounds deeply with anyone who reads it.
Keith’s first poem for IHC, “I Understand’ is one of the most-read poems we’ve ever shared on the site.
We are deeply grateful to the men of IHadCancer who have overcome social stigma to discuss their health issues in a forum many balk at. They have inspired countless others to share their stories and make changes in their own lives, and they've done it in a way that affects real change. They have encountered difficulties that many cannot fathom and they've become strong in ways others never will -- and they've shared those stories with this community. Thank you for redefining strength for all cancer warriors.
Who embodies the meaning of strength in your life? Share in the comments below!
Team I Had Cancer is the group of people behind the scenes, making sure IHadCancer.com is running, and that you're connecting to the people you need to know for the support and information you need while dealing with cancer.