How Cancer Saved My Life

How Cancer Saved My Life

My final paper was due at noon for a summer class I was taking to graduate early. As per usual, I had left my conclusion to the last minute. I liked to get the paper written, then give it a day to settle, then re-read it and write the conclusion with fresh eyes and a day of extra insight. On this particular day, I had been given a truckload of insight. I got the news at 9am, so that gave me a few hours to go home, write my conclusion, have a snack, drive to school and drop off the paper, then head home and have a complete meltdown.


Cancer at 23?! Are you fucking kidding me?! Being told you have cancer at 23 isn’t what most people think of when they hear “get ready for the real world after college, kid!” It’s certainly not what I expected for my life. Three months later, I was heading in for surgery to remove the basal cell carcinoma from my face. My face?! Wait, I got cancer on my face?! Shit, man.


They wouldn’t put me under because the drugs might mess with my head and I could come out and look in the mirror and freak out because I wouldn’t look anything like my old self and… hold on, what?! I won’t look like myself anymore? What does that mean? Ok, let’s do this. I’m awake for the whole thing. I can hear them discussing me as they slice me open. I can hear the scissors as they separate my skin form my cheek muscle.


Not cool.


Long story short, I make it out with a big nasty scar on the right side of my face. Interestingly, the right side of the face is associated with the ego, so my ego literally got slashed. I lost my confidence in a huge way because much of it was wrapped up in my ego and my looks and my “Mr. Cool” vibe which is hard to pull off when you can’t hold eye contact with people for more than a moment.


Losing my cool in a way I never thought I would, I went spiraling into a depression. I got pretty dark for a while, thinking this would be my life forever. That I would never find love or my confidence or the respect I had gotten from the outside world again. This sad reality self perpetuated for about 8 months until I decided I wouldn’t be a victim of my circumstances. I knew countless before me had come back from much worse and I refused to let this setback ruin my life.


I started my self-development journey by reading books about depression and trying to understand where I was currently at. Then I looked at positive psychology to look at where I wanted to be. Finally I dove into evolutionary psychology to understand the bigger picture of how everything fits together… Over the course of the next few months I started to understand why and how things could change in my life just by adjusting my behaviours.


So I did just that.


I’m not going to say I didn’t fall on my face… a lot… but over time things started to gel, they started to feel more congruent and finally they became part of my natural way of being. Check out some of my other blogs to get a better idea of what I learned in that time and try to implement just a few of my recommendations and I promise you if you stick with it you will start to see amazing changes in your life.


Cancer Free since ’03!

Devon O'Brien Ash