Join Alex and Team LIVESTRONG at an event this year. Whether you run, ride or tri in 2013, do it with Team LIVESTRONG. Visit www.teamlivestrong.org for more information about events currently open for registration.
What’s your name and how have you been affected by cancer?
My name is Alex Hohmann. I was diagnosed with testicular cancer in October 1996 and was successfully treated with surgery, radiation therapy, and follow-up surveillance. I was diagnosed with testicular cancer again, and therefore not directly associated with the first diagnosis, in March 2008 and was treated with surgery and have been on follow-up surveillance ever since. As a consequence of these two TC diagnoses, I cannot have children of my own and am dependent on exogenous testosterone replacement for the rest of my life. However, having discovered this cancer at an early stage and being committed to strict and thorough follow-up, my prognosis is considered excellent.
Why did you join Team LIVESTRONG?
I’ve faced cancer twice: the first time in October 1996 when I was diagnosed with testicular cancer. I was treated successfully and didn’t give cancer much thought until I was diagnosed a second time, again with testicular cancer, in March 2008. Soon after, I learned about LIVESTRONG through fellow TC survivors who were LIVESTRONG participants and I signed up for my first Challenge near my former home town of Philadelphia.
When I signed up, I figured it would be a simple way of meeting fellow TC survivors whom I only knew through an online support forum and, in so doing, could do some good for other people. Many of my family members wanted to do something for me soon after my diagnosis, but I really couldn’t say what I needed. So that first Challenge gave me a way of telling my family how they could help by helping others through LIVESTRONG.
I also felt strongly that, with cancer having touched my life twice in just forty years and having permanently affected my life, I had a choice: I could just be angry about it but do nothing about it except just focus on my own sense of loss. Or I could make the most of something bad by turning it into an opportunity to do something for other people. LIVESTRONG motivated me to choose the latter.
2013 Philly Challenge 10K run
2012 Philly Challenge 10K run
2011 Philly Challenge 5K run & 45 mile ride
2010 Philly Challenge 45 mile ride
2009 Philly Challenge 5K run
2008 Philly Challenge 5K walk
Other than the Philadelphia Challenges, which have now become an annual tradition for me, I often direct people I know to LIVESTRONG and educate people around me constantly about the Foundation’s many services. I give talks on testicular cancer to high school students every year and use the opportunity to talk about LIVESTRONG.
What does LIVESTRONG mean to you?
LIVESTRONG has meant a lot to me over the years and has taught me a lot about myself and about the power of advocacy.
First of all, I was surprised to find so many of my friends and family eagerly contributing to my fundraising for my first Challenge in 2008. I continue to be surprised by my contributors’ generosity but I now understand that it is the result of simply telling my story and stressing the importance of giving back to help others. I’ve consequently learned just how powerful speaking out about issues that concern me can be and I’ve extended that experience to other causes that I hold dear, notably the cause of LGBT civil rights.
I was also surprised, once I arrived at my first Challenge, by just how emotionally powerful it was to be surrounded, for the first time in my life, by so many other people who had been affected by cancer. I will never forget the experience of walking in the 5K at that first Challenge, hand-in-hand with my partner, with tears in my eyes as we crossed the finish line together and I grabbed my yellow rose. Even now, five years out from my second diagnosis, crossing that finish line and getting a survivor’s rose is a tremendously powerful experience that is difficult to describe.
LIVESTRONG helped me to discover how fulfilling it can be to do something to help other people, people I will likely never know. While we all like to help our friends in times of need, LIVESTRONG opened my eyes to the joy of helping people much more broadly. Even as my own cancer relapse risk diminishes, so many other people are being diagnosed right now. All I need to do is remember the sense of fear, frustration, confusion, and anger that I felt twice already to remind me of just how important it is for there to be a resource like LIVESTRONG that people can turn to for reassurance and help.
On a more personal note, LIVESTRONG motivated me to challenge myself athletically. I had always been in reasonably good shape without ever really trying. But until I decided to run in my second Challenge in 2009, I didn’t realize that even a two-time testicular cancer survivor approaching middle age like me could take up an entirely new sport, train for it, and actually do quite well in it. And enjoy it, no less. I’ve since taken up cycling followed by running longer distances and earlier this year ran my first halfmarathon. I have the goal of running a full marathon in 2014. Until my second cancer and discovering LIVESTRONG, I would never even have dreamed of challenging myself this way. LIVESTRONG helped me to realize an athletic potential I didn’t even know I had.
What is one piece of advice you would give to someone affected by cancer?
Don’t go it alone. Cancer can feel like a very lonely experience. After all, you have it but, most likely, none of your family, friends and loved ones have the same cancer you do at that time. So you need to find other people who have faced this themselves and reach out for advice and, yes, friendship. I’ll say it again: facing cancer can be a very lonely and isolating experience. That’s why it’s critical to find a community of people dealing with the same issues to break down that sense of isolation.