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Cancer robbed me of my health; now, I'm taking it back

By Jamil Nathoo, Special to CNN
March 7, 2014 -- Updated 1222 GMT (2022 HKT)
Before he was diagnosed with testicular cancer, Jamil Nathoo was an adventurous athlete.
Before he was diagnosed with testicular cancer, Jamil Nathoo was an adventurous athlete.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Jamil Nathoo was diagnosed with testicular cancer while training for an Olympic triathlon
  • Nathoo is now in remission and training with CNN Fit Nation
  • Follow Jamil's triathlon journey on Twitter @TriHardJamil

Editor's note: Jamil Nathoo is one of six CNN viewers selected to be a part of the Fit Nation Triathlon Challenge program. Follow the "Sassy Six" on Twitter and Facebook as they train to race the Nautica Malibu Triathlon with Dr. Sanjay Gupta on September 14.

(CNN) -- Today is my chemo anniversary. A year ago today, I started chemotherapy.

Is that something you celebrate? Is it something you even acknowledge? I've had mixed feelings about marking an anniversary that changed my life.

Before I was diagnosed, I was in my prime. I was 34 years old and undoubtedly in the best shape of my adult life. I had met the girl of my dreams, I was being promoted at work, and I was training for an Olympic triathlon.

Living a healthy lifestyle isn't something that comes easily. It's a choice you make -- a choice I made some years ago. Growing up, I was an athlete, and sports were a big part of my life. Then, in my 20s, after moving to New York and making some unhealthy choices, I once again took control of my life and put my health first.

That dying patient could have been me

Fit Nation team works out with Hawks
Fit Nation team starts journey to tri

Being healthy defined me. Whether it was what I ate or how many times a week I exercised, it was a priority. It was time I dedicated to me, time that was spent bettering myself, both physically and mentally.

And almost overnight, it was taken from me. I had cancer.

Being diagnosed was a big shock, not only for me but for those around me. If it could happen to me, someone who took their health so seriously, it could happen to anyone.

While training for the triathlon, I was plagued with a lot of injuries that no one could really figure out. It wasn't until I requested a CT scan on the advice of a friend that anything was detected.

When the results from the scan came back, my doctor said it could be lymphoma or some type of infection. I prayed for the latter, but at that moment, I knew it was much more serious.

Diabetes took my teeth but not my life

As an athlete, you know your body well, and something just didn't feel right. I had dealt with injuries before, but not like this. I met with a stomach specialist who told me it was most likely lymphoma, and the next step was a biopsy. I met with my oncologist, but it wasn't until we got the biopsy results that I was finally diagnosed.

I did not have lymphoma but testicular cancer, and it was spreading fast.

I remember thinking cancer wouldn't affect me too much, that I'd just have to stop every month for a week for what I called "a little chemo."

I was wrong. Nothing I read and nothing I was told could have prepared me for what was to come.

Chemo is essentially poison that kills the all the bad things in your body; the good things are collateral damage.

Why I gave up soda

I wasn't prepared to feel winded after climbing a set of stairs when running 5 miles had been nothing for me. I wasn't ready for how my hair would one day just fall from my head as if it wasn't mine. I wasn't ready for the debilitating nausea that could render me helpless.

Everything I had worked so hard for was slowly slipping away. I was being attacked from the inside, and I couldn't control it.

What I was first told would be a three- to four-month ordeal turned into a year. Four rounds of chemo and two abdominal surgeries later, I'm in the clear and couldn't be happier.

Ultimately, what it all came down to was that the healthy lifestyle I had chosen aided my recovery. My strength allowed me to recover faster. Just six months after my first surgery, I'm training for a triathlon.

So now, I start from the beginning. I'm ready to live again. I'm ready to be healthy again. My second surgery is only eight weeks behind me, and my workouts have begun. They're light, but I'm moving in the right direction. This will be no easy feat, but I know I'll get there.

I can't let cancer win. If I don't get back to the best shape of my life, I've let cancer off the hook. I intend to take back from it, what it took from me. I intend to cross that finish line in September.

Celebrating small victories

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