28 Nov

My Story

Living with Cancer: it’s about living your life the best way you can and helping others to do the same.

By Henry Rant

I’ve loved sports for as long as I can remember. My first word when I was a kid was “ball.” From a very young age I was an athlete, so when I was diagnosed with Prostate cancer in December of my freshman year of college, that was a shock. I’d been having stomach pain, and trouble urinating since the beginning of the previous summer, and no one could tell me what was wrong. Of course, the idea that I had cancer never crossed my mind. But after a tough fall season I finally had a colonoscopy at Staten Island University Hospital, where the oncologist diagnosed me with prostate cancer.

I was 18 years old. I had no idea what Prostate Cancer was, and it was hard to wrap my head around the idea of having this illness for the rest of my life. I was not exactly in the best state of mind at that point. I played both tennis and baseball my whole life, but fall of my freshman year I couldn’t play either anymore because I couldn’t make it through a match without crunching up into a ball on the court because of the pain, not to mention the catheter attached to me. Right now, I’m studying biology at City College of New York with an interest in going on to medical school to become an oncologist. I was reading about prostate cancer in America. American men have a 16 percent risk of developing prostate cancer in their lifetime, but only 3 percent lifetime risk of dying from it.

My freshman year, I was spending a lot of time at the University Hospital in Staten Island and I realized there were many kids there suffering a lot more than I was. I would come in once a week and see the same kids, week after week, who hadn’t been able to leave their rooms. I thought there must be some way I could help them.

At the time I was really into collecting baseball cards, and I thought collecting and giving away sports cards to kids in hospitals would be a cool idea. My friends and I decided to better organize ourselves which would do this for as many kids as possible. By the time I left college, we’d given out 500,000 cards to kids in need, and every single pack we give away makes these kids so happy. It’s just amazing the reactions we get — from both the kids and their parents, who are usually sports fans, too. Here at City College, I’m still heavily involved, overseeing the ambassadors around the country. I just love being able to do it for these kids.

If you have a disease or a prolong illness like Prostate Cancer, you have to try and find a way to keep doing what you love. And if you have to let that go, try and discover something that’s similar. I wasn’t able to keep playing tennis, so I resorted to ping-pong. It doesn’t take as much energy, but it’s the same concept and I enjoy it so much. Accept the fact that you’re going to have this condition for your whole life. It’s not going to be easy. But if you have doctors you trust, and if you take advantage of all the support that’s available — and there are more support groups and camps and things out there now than there were even a few years ago, when I was diagnosed — you’ll be surprised how full a life you can still lead.