Cancer is Something No One Should Ever Fight Alone

My name is Dan Olsen and I'm a 3 time cancer survivor. I was diagnosed with cancer for the first time the night before the super bowl. I was also playing semi-pro football at the time. I felt under weather so I decided to go to the doctors. I had thought I had mono because a few of my teammates were recovering from it.  So I went in to get checked and the doctor came out and boldly told me "you don't have mono, you have cancer."  I was like "WHAT?"  The doctor then came back with, " You are in stage four cancer. If you don't start treatment tomorrow, you will be dead in two weeks."  I was so caught off guard I did not know what to say so I told the doctor, "hey, I parked in the visitors lot" and the doctor told me, "well have someone move your car!"  He continue to tell me, "you've got to start treatment now, its everywhere!" So I started my journey the next day fighting for my life.

I went through a year of intense chemotherapy and the doctors  were able to treat it and I was deemed cancer free. Then about five years later the cancer returned. This time around I had to have a bone marrow transplant, along with another year of chemotherapy.  I went through double doses while I was in the bone marrow transplant unit but again I came out of that cancer free for the second time.  Believe it or not, 2 years later the cancer came back in my upper back and into my neck.  I found myself in the most unbelievable position fighting life threatening cancer for a third time.  Each time I was diagnosed with cancer I had the fear of not making it through, especially after the bone marrow transplant. People don't always survive this procedure and the doctors basically have to reboot your whole body.  All three times I battled cancer, I had this overwhelming feeling, "do I really have to go through this again?  Do I have to put on this armor again and gear up for this war and start fighting for my life all over again?" I had questions and thoughts racing through my mind like do "I really want to go go through this again?  This is really hard and the answer for me has always been, YES!  

Many people think that cancer itself, the treatment or chemotherapy are the toughest things to endure but for me the hardest thing I dealt with was the isolation. The isolation I went through while fighting cancer for me was really tough because nobody really knew what I was going through.  I felt so alone because many people shied away because they don't know what to say or feel bad because they can't do anything so its better for them to ignore you. Can you believe it more people asked about my knee injury last year than all 3 bouts with cancer.  

Isolation is one of the biggest driving factors for why I created Christopher's Haven.  It took approximately 12 years of battling cancer on and off but I have been cancer free for almost 9 years. One of the misconceptions people have when you are cleared from cancer is that you're healed and life should go back to normal.  That is the furthest from the the truth. Life does not go back to normal because cancer does not play by the rules and your life does not ever go back to normal after fighting for your life and becoming cancer free. Cancer is something no one should ever fight alone.  Cancer is something we need to fight together and through my experiences of fighting through cancer three times, I have this burning desire to help those who are going through the very isolation I did when fighting cancer. 


Tom Gauthier's picture

Thanks for your inspiring story, Dan--and thanks for founding Christopher's Haven. You've inspired me to be much more thoughtful about being more present to people I know who are dealing with cancer. The embarrassment of "not knowing what to say" is not going to be my excuse anymore--I'm going to be there, and learn what to say. Tom