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Three Life-Changing Words

by Darren Neuberger

Inspiration image

“You have cancer.” It’s funny how three words can stop you in your tracks and send you to a place of uncertainty and confusion. That was my reality when I was told that I had cancer at age 34. A nagging cough for seven months was my only noticeable symptom, but thanks to the persistence of my wife, Jaylene, I am alive and extremely well today, almost seven years after treatment.

Who would have thought that a seemingly simple cough would change my life forever? As many others before me have discovered, sometimes the symptoms don’t click with the illness. That’s how it was for me. After three clinic visits for my cough over a seven-month period, I heard those three dreaded words, and my life became very different in a matter of three seconds.

I wanted to paint a different picture of cancer and show that millions of us are surviving this disease.

We didn’t know what type of cancer I had at that point, but after a weekend of waiting, I was officially diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia. I could list all of the thoughts and emotions that wandered through my mind, but shock and fear are the two that stood out the most. After the fog in my mind lifted, it was time to face my reality. I challenged this thing called cancer to a fight and thought, “Let’s ring the bell, because this is on!”

I will never say that my two-year journey was easy, because it wasn’t. However, I was strong, positive, and I had the most amazing people in my corner. Because of my wife, I found the strength I needed when it would have been easy to stay down. Giving up was never an option. To have had the strength to endure five months as an inpatient on a cancer ward, more than six hundred chemotherapy treatments, two weeks of brain radiation, a trip to reverse isolation in ICU, and more than thirty-four blood and platelet transfusions is a testament that I can get through anything if I allow myself to believe so.

I began to notice a common, negative theme around cancer. After seeing so much gloom and doom, I wanted to paint a different picture of cancer and show that millions of us are surviving this disease. I knew that when I finished my treatments I was going to be a face and a voice for all of us that are surviving. I know firsthand that cancer is very scary, but I’m living proof that you can survive and thrive after cancer.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Darren Neuberger is a certified empowerment coach, inspirational speaker, stand-up comedian, author, and acute lymphocytic leukemia survivor living in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada. He also hosts an Internet radio show on called Let’s Talk About It Radio Show. His book Let’s Talk About It: Inspiring Stories from Young Adult Cancer Survivors is available on

This article was published in Coping® with Cancer magazine, September/October 2012.