There’s no such thing as a wake-up call

At age 28, I was diagnosed with testicular cancer. My unhealthy lifestyle had finally caught up with me. This was the wake-up call I needed. I used it. I cut meat out of my diet, stopped drinking, lost one hundred pounds, and started running marathons. Cancer saved my life.

It’s a nice story. Fat kid gets cancer, survives, turns life around. People like narratives like that. It makes change seem easy. It makes people believe that with the right motivation, willpower, and commitment, anyone can change their life. It’s how I would write the story if I had the ability to change history.

Unfortunately, it’s not true. While I was fat and I was diagnosed with cancer; post-chemo, nothing changed. I still ate poorly. I still drank too much. I still spent hours lying on my couch watching TV. All my old bad habits returned. A year after I was diagnosed, I was over 275 pounds, 15 pounds heavier than I was before the diagnosis.

Looking back, this outcome isn’t that surprising. To get to the point I was at health-wise, I had to have ignored countless other wake-up calls over the span of nearly three decades. Why was cancer any different? My health was not a new problem that I was suddenly being forced to confront. It’s one that I had chosen to ignore for years.

My experience with cancer taught me one thing: if I was going to change, it wasn’t going to be because of one unique, life-changing event. No single thing, not even cancer, would provide me with a consistent enough  supply of motivation and willpower to maintain momentum and drive change. If I really wanted to change my life, I had to find another way.

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