top of page
  • Writer's pictureJeffrey Reynolds

Don’t Make Me Tell You Twice

“Don’t make me tell you twice,” was a familiar refrain from teachers as I bounced around my elementary school classroom fifty years ago because listening the first time just isn’t my thing.

Still, I heard my doctor loud and clear on April 1, 2022 when he told me that I had locally advanced prostate cancer. It was a bad April Fool’s Day joke because I had zero symptoms and was in the best shape of my life, having just completed Ironman Florida – a grueling race consisting of a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26.2-mile run.

Thanks to the talented and compassionate folks at NYU Langone, I quickly underwent treatment and gratefully celebrated one year cancer-free on July 1, 2023. More than anything, I fully understood the value of regular checkups - even if they are embarrassing, inconvenient or uncomfortable.

That’s what lead me to a routine colonoscopy a month later.

I awoke in the recovery room after the procedure and the nurse let me know that the doctor would be right over to see me. That didn’t seem odd, but when I saw his expression a few minutes later, I immediately knew it wasn’t good. He had removed some likely benign polyps, but also said there was a “significant mass.”

“How significant?” I asked.

“Very significant.”

I was still groggy and stricken, but knew I was about to hear the soul-crushing words I never thought I’d hear once, much less twice: “you have cancer.”

This wasn’t a return of my previous cancer, but unrelated stage 3B colorectal cancer that would require a longer, more intensive and multi-pronged treatment approach.

A friend asked me if I was annoyed by the diagnoses given how many hours I spend swimming, biking, running and prioritizing my health. He didn’t invoke Jim Fixx, who famously ran ten miles per day, wrote the 1977 best-selling book The Complete Book of Running and ironically died of a heart attack while running, but I knew exactly what he meant.

Truth is, I'm thankful that I'm waging war against cancer while I’m in the best physical shape of my life, with a strong heart, powerful lungs and a clear head. I'm thankful that my investment in my own health is making the treatment side effects more manageable and recovery faster. While radiation, chemo, more chemo and maybe surgery come with immense risks, I know, despite some fleeting doubts, that I got this.

Cancer asks – or rather demands – so much from us as warriors, survivors, and people, rather than patients. My own diagnosis rocked any lingering illusions of invincibility and immortality, forced me to review my life and my relationship with my body, mind and spirit as well as my relationships with others. As I reconsidered by attitudes, beliefs and priorities, I thought more about how and with whom I spend my time. And I gave those things even more thought when cancer popped up again.

If you’ve had a cancer diagnosis or any other serious illness, you know exactly what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, thank your lucky stars and act like you have.

bottom of page