I didn’t know that it was cancer. On a weeklong business trip to China, my body started feeling funny. I attributed it to jet lag. As a motivational speaker, I spoke to local kids about life in the military. To prove how tough they condition us, my colleagues and I allowed the kids to punch us as hard as they could in the chest.
They were punching me right in my tumor.
After that trip, symptoms started to show. I went straight to the doctor to get everything checked out. The X-ray revealed a large mass in my chest. It was the size of my fist, right above my heart. About a month later, I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. I started treatment the next week.
Throughout my treatment, I remained optimistic. I still joked with friends and family. I didn’t feel sorry for myself. I think that’s why people around me weren’t breaking down either.
Chemo was surreal. One night I ran my hand through my hair. It came out in clumps. As a veteran, I was used to having short hair. But this was a whole new level. Being bald really sucked. I hated that I would get cold so easily.
There’s this understanding among cancer patients that no one else really gets what we’re going through. After being around other patients, I realized I had it good. I was taking my treatment well. My insurance plan covered my costs. Though my body had deteriorated a bit, I was still in good physical condition. I was able to walk around the hospital and connect with other patients.
We formed a bond over the struggle we were all facing.
In hearing their stories, I realized I had a lot to be grateful for. The only option I had was to be optimistic.
Alain Chuntraruk (firstname.lastname@example.org) graduated from the United States Military Academy (West Point) in 2007. Upon graduation, Alain commissioned as an Engineer Officer and served five years of distinguished service with one combat deployment to Iraq in 2010. In his free time, Alain enjoys freediving and spearfishing with his wife Lily.
Image Credit: Daniel Zheng/The Verbatim Agency for OptionB.Org