June 09 2023
Written by Jason Tharp
When you're handed a diagnosis of cancer, it feels as if the world is moving in slow motion, stuck on a continuous loop of the C-word. While life around you keeps spinning, it feels as though an elephant has climbed onto your back, requesting a lift. It's debilitating, dreadful, downright awful, and leaves a feeling of betrayal. If you're someone easily swayed by shame, you might look for ways to blame yourself. Are you a self-loathing enthusiast? Don't fret; you'll devote ample time to dissecting your mistakes. But what if none of this was your fault and it just happened?
That's how it felt for me. I experienced a seizure, underwent an MRI, followed by brain surgery. I was left in the metaphorical dark, waiting anxiously for the test results. A few weeks later, the day finally arrived.
There I sat, as the doctor explained, horribly, I must add, that the next chapter of my life would be titled Glioblastoma. Spouting statistics, suggesting endgame plans, and bluntly declaring, "You'll be dead in seven months." That's a heavy load to bear. They were trying to write my ending without asking a single question. If only they had asked, listened, displayed even a sliver of empathy, they might have learned much about me and remained a part of my team dedicated to shattering impossibilities. More importantly, they would have known that I was born to be a storyteller. As they were hastily scripting my ending, I knew a lot could happen between "Once upon a time" and "The end." I had no interest in their version of my story and, from that moment, began to weave my own tale. After all, what do all those statistics have to do with me?
This leads us to the problem with statistics. They're numbers; they don't represent you. Whether they concern a groundbreaking drug or a new disease, statistics typically map out effectiveness, challenges, and trajectories. But past data don't determine your future prognosis, your fate, your defining factors. Statistics can guide us, but they don't predict the future. I believe we carve our destiny. As far as I was concerned, I was a 45-year-old man who had undergone successful surgery to remove an entire tumor. My case was distinct, not designed to fit neatly into the same category as thousands of other brain cancer cases.
Let me clarify a point here, as it may seem that I don't respect or trust doctors. That couldn't be further from the truth. What I am saying is that on your team, there's room for only one captain, and every exceptional doctor on my team knows their valued role as incredible co-captains. We'll achieve what others may perceive as impossible, even though we knew our potential from the onset. To be clear, I'm not advocating ignoring your doctor or other experts. What I am suggesting is for you to contemplate the following: Doctors are experts in statistics, medication, and norms. They, however, aren't experts on you. Do you know who is? YOU!
My life, like yours, has had its share of ups and downs, without diving into the minutiae. I've struggled with self-loathing, a period of weighing 400lbs, incessant failures, self-doubt, and a healthy dose of self-sabotage. I consider myself fortunate that, despite these trials, resilience and optimism have managed to thrive within me. It still perplexes me, but my life path is strewn with shattered impossibilities.
That's why organizations like NRG are essential. Their impact isn't merely due to the exceptional work the doctors and advocates perform, but also because of the incredible metaphorical drug they provide - hope. Hope is the crucial first step we need to transform our impossibilities into possibilities. We need to see that it can be done. The rest is up to us. Armed with hope, we can move forward, utilize all resources, seek out trials, and discover that we might not be failing after all, but discovering ourselves.
I've spent most of my life disliking myself, believing I deserved nothing but misfortune. My brain buddy, however, brought clarity to my perspective. For me, the notion of battling cancer doesn't resonate. If I wake up every day to fight cancer and I subscribe to the belief that our thoughts shape our reality, then cancer would persist in my body. But what if I dared to choose life instead? Maybe we've had it wrong. Maybe we're not fighting anything. What if instead, we choose to inspire others to live, discover hope, seek grace, and defy what others deem impossible? The fascinating thing about impossibilities is that they always remain so until they aren't.
I am pleased to announce that the seven-month deadline is a thing of the past. I am now approaching two years of clean MRI scans. I call it remission; that’s my word, and I like the way it sounds.
As we come to a close, was it luck that brought me to this point? Possibly, but I'd like to think it was the amazing, and not-so-amazing, people who crossed my path. Each of them helped clear the way for me to cultivate self-love and carve a new path. To assist others in finding hope within their stories and realize they aren't alone.
I'd be delighted if you followed my story. You can find me on all social media platforms by searching my name or simply visiting www.jasontharp.com.
Whether you know me or not, remember this: You're doing an excellent job at being human. It can be challenging at times, but you're crushing it! I hope this provides some comfort and encouragement.