I looked a friend in the eyes as she told me how much she doesn’t want to be alive anymore. How opening her eyes each day, makes her angry.

Someone confided in me that bulimia is their way of coping with the abrupt changes of vomiting through chemo to the rapid weight gain from steroids. And how those experiences are intertwined now.

A member of the community messaged me that reading my blog “sex got me through cancer” made them feel understood about something they are hiding for fear of not being accepted.

It was an intense month…

These and other conversations about infertility, genetic alterations, precision medicine, singing, crying, collapsing, finding a way to stand up… are my life now.

These are the real, the raw, the human stories of how cancer affects us. Most people (and I was one of them) keep these experiences locked inside. We don’t want to burden our family. We can’t admit them to ourselves.

When I started GRYT Health with a team of cancer survivors and caregivers, our mission was to create a place for people to have the tough conversations that the rest of the world doesn’t understand. Creating a place to let out the experiences of cancer that we didn’t need to share before cancer… but must now.

As we’ve grown GRYT (“grit”) to a million interactions among people facing cancer in 100 countries, I’ve learned how little I truly knew about cancer (and I’m an oncology researcher).

There is a movement happening. An increasing awareness of how our experiences need to be a part of treating and surviving disease. My team and I are part of that movement; of pushing healthcare forward. Of moving humanity forward.

In the work we do, we invite people to share how cancer affects them. We never reveal anyone’s identity… (I get asked that a lot too).

In these projects, we’ve learned how often people become addicted to pain medication during cancer.

We hear how much anxiety and depression make people feel ashamed or misunderstood. You’re cancer-free… why aren’t you happy? Or… you have a “good” cancer.

We’ve learned why people distrust Pharma companies or clinical trials. And what steps we can take to build trust.

We learn which people are informed about their treatment options and which aren’t.

It’s hard to live this life. I cry a lot. For miracles and for tragedies. I allow myself to cry, because not getting to feel alive would is far worse.

We do this research so we can provide, and help improve, what’s available to support people through cancer.

For me, admitting that I didn’t know if I was still a man after losing both testicles, my fertility, my sexuality and my identity to cancer… opened me up to realize I’m more of a man now than I was with those things.

We all, every one of us, have things we hide because we don’t think others will understand. Or, we hide them because we can’t accept them about our self.

I’m not here to force anyone to share things they’re not ready to. But if you’re curious what can happen when you start to let out those things you’ve been hiding, we’re here. A lot of us are here.

I won’t say it’s easy. It’s not. I will say that learning to accept myself is a miracle I thought was out of my grasp.

Helping others accept themselves, is a calling I never knew I’d find.

If I can ask you one thing, next time someone says something that makes you uncomfortable, welcome it.

That feeling of initial discomfort might give way to a new understanding about someone or about life. But even if it doesn’t change anything, it shows people they can be uncomfortable exploring life with you.

I’m proud to share some of the resources our community says help them the most; find their way to treatment, support, acceptance, life or faith.

You have the power. Your peers are here to help.

Julie Larson
Stop Cancer. Start Praying.
ReVital Cancer Rehabilitation.
GVCC - Everyone’s Experience Matters

Join the conversation.
I’ll meet you there,
Dave Fuehrer