The year Sebastian got cancer was also the best year of his life
By Cancer Council NSW
2022 had been a busy year for Sebastian – he’d met his future wife, bought a new apartment, and received a promotion at work.
“It’s funny to say it, but the year I got cancer was also the best year of my life,” he says.
Dealing with a cancer diagnosis and treatment can be challenging for many – but for Sebastian, it also came with a sense of irony.
He’d recently made the decision to quit training to become a Catholic priest because he wanted to start a family – now chemotherapy might prevent his dream from coming true regardless.
Faced with challenging treatment choices
Sebastian’s diagnosis came after he experienced some chest pain following an overseas trip. Having been sent for a CT scan to rule out a possible blood clot, doctors spotted what they thought was a small thymoma – an often-benign enlargement of the thymus gland.
Following successful surgery to remove it, Sebastian’s medical team realised he’d had a mediastinal mixed-germ cell tumour, a very rare hybrid tumour.
Although scans showed that there was no cancer detectable in Sebastian’s body, his oncologist recommended chemotherapy treatment to reduce the risk of the cancer reoccurring.
For Sebastian, this wasn’t a quick or easy decision – much to the confusion of his friends and family.
High among his concerns was the possibility of becoming infertile, in light of everything he’d given up to be able to start a family.
“When I told my friends, I said, ‘I’ve been told that I have to do chemo, so spare a thought for my swimmers’. They said to me, ‘Only you could convey such terrible news in such a funny way’,” he remembers.
Going through cancer treatment as a young adult
As a man in his mid-30s, Sebastian wants to share his story to help other young people with cancer get the information they need so they can make well-informed treatment decisions.
For Sebastian, his faith gave him a different perspective on treatment as he wasn’t afraid of dying.
“I was a lot more concerned with being rendered infertile, or the chemo affecting my kidneys in the long run,” he recalls.
Sebastian turned to the Cancer Council website to find information on fertility and other side effects, and, after much consideration, he decided to have chemotherapy. His decision came with other challenges for a young person navigating cancer.
“One of the most distressing things about the treatment was the other drugs I had to take,” he says. “I put on weight and lost muscle throughout the months of treatment. I had to wait until April to propose to my wife, because it took that long for me to get a full head of hair again.”
Looking to the future
Sebastian finished treatment just before Christmas 2022 and is now cancer free.
He’s now looking to the future – one full of travel, delicious food, and time spent with his wife, family, and friends.
Although he’s left the path towards priesthood, Sebastian still draws on his faith for hope.
“As unexpected and unwanted as this whole experience has been, it has reminded me to appreciate the virtue of hope. Something I try my best to emulate is the lesson articulated by the anchorite Julian of Norwich,” he reflects.
“After a lifetime of contemplation on the ways and means of God, she thought it could all be summarised with this phrase – ‘All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.’”