Writer and Editor
NED since 2021

I was a soldier stationed at one of the most isolated military bases in the United States when it happened to me. It was my first assignment, and I was in the best shape of my life.
I had just graduated from the Defense Information School, and I was ready to serve my country as a photojournalist. I was also sick, and no one knew why. One doctor thought the problem was in my body, and another one thought it was in my head.

My boss thought that I was a p*ssy, and that I was faking it. My boss also thought that it was okay to wear bedazzled jeans, and lie about his service record. After months of testing, it turned out that I had cancer.

If being diagnosed with cancer in the army taught me anything, it’s that no one likes a weak man. No one. Soldiers are supposed to be strong, and weakness confuses them. It offends their sense of purpose, and they’ll hate you for it.

Despite what recruitment videos say, soldiers are expendable government property, and being a soldier with cancer is like finding out that hell has a basement because you’re defective government property.

I felt weak because I thought I was physically powerless, and I felt ashamed because I thought I did something wrong. I hated my body, and for a long time, I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror because I could only see what was missing.

Cancer broke me in a bad way, and I struggled to put the pieces back together because they didn’t fit anymore. I’d changed; I wasn’t the same person. It forced me to evaluate my life, and question what I was doing with it.

Crying by yourself while wearing camouflage in a locked bathroom at an oncology clinic really puts things into perspective. I thought I was tough because I was a soldier, but I didn’t know sh*t about life until I had to earn it.

I used to think I was weak, but that’s because my strength came from the approval of other people. I’ve survived the army, cancer…and being hit by lightning (a story for another time). My strength comes from my story, and I can’t be killed by conventional means.