5 Lessons As A New Cancer Fighter

World Cancer Day is meant to inspire action for a cancer-free future. For me, it’s taken on an important new meaning after being one of the 80,000 people diagnosed this year in the US with bladder cancer. This has been a year of lessons learned on the cancer road I’m traveling and it’s clear that everyone’s road bends a different way.

Lesson #1: 

For me, the number one lesson learned is that early detection is key. It was two bright spots of blood in my pee one morning that got me to the doctor in the middle of a pandemic.Those two bright spots of blood may have actually saved my life. They weren’t normal and I knew that. Listen to your body. The cliche is true. It took a couple of months after that to get my full diagnosis and then surgery and treatments.

Lesson #2:

Cancer isn’t pretty and it isn’t fun to talk about. For me I’ve found I need to lean-IN to the discomfort. If I can’t talk about my treatments. If I can’t talk about my fear of needing a bladder removal one day. If I can’t talk about the worry of needing to pee through a bag for the rest of my life, who CAN I talk to. I hope it never comes to that. But it’s my truth and I need to own it— and I intend to own it— in hopes of making a difference.

Lesson #3: 

I’m learning to accept the help and encouragement and recognize that people don’t know how to react when they’re facing YOU who is facing a serious illness. On more than one occasion, I’ve heard from people that I “look good” said with a hesitant consolation prize voice. I’m grateful to look and feel good. I’m grateful to have been able to keep working through treatments which is also a reason I’ve often refused help or have rain-checked people when they’ve reached out with an offer. A good friend hit me with that dose of reality and said, “you need to learn to accept help”.  I’m still trying. 

Lesson #4: 

I’m trying to forgive myself for my shortcomings. And there are many. But life is heavy enough, and dealing with an illness is hard enough, without being weighed down by other baggage I don’t need. Resolutions? Weight loss. Work-life balance. Patience. More family time. I’m a work in progress this year. Health is my priority and beyond that, it will all happen in time.

Lesson #5:

My biggest moments of panic come when I google too much, and look too far down the road. I feel fine one minute and think I’m doomed the next. None of us know what’s around the next bend and that’s especially true if you have a serious diagnosis. But you CAN successfully manage the road right in front of you. Today. Baby steps.  

Today I’m good. 

Let me concentrate on that.

So on this World Cancer Day remember:




oh and get a dog.

We got a dog this year.. Bowie

a bright spot in a tough year!

read my other columns:






About Pete Wilgoren

Author of Dadmissions. Pete Wilgoren is an Emmy winning journalist, blogger, and author writing about parenthood, life, and other stuff
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