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It’s OK to Feel the Feelings – Kidney Cancer Association

This is a guest post by Sid Sadler, 32. Sid was diagnosed with stage 2 kidney cancer in February of 2024. Prior to his diagnosis he worked in the nonprofit sector in communications/social media. He continues to utilize his love of communications and social media (@theunremarkablekidney on Instagram) to advocate for kidney cancer patients. He is married to his wife of eight years, Rachel, and they have two loving pups Ollie and Penny.

What are you whining for?”

“Stop crying!”

Chances are, if you’re a man, you have heard these words more times than “I love you.” That’s why I’m writing this post today. I’ll admit, even prior to my diagnosis, I was seeing a therapist. The passing of my mother and Covid 19 all happened within months of each other. I felt like I truly had nowhere to turn.

To make matters “worse,” my wife was at the time an ICU nurse and seeing the worst of what Covid had to offer. I felt like I couldn’t be there for her, when she needed me the most. I’ll say on the forefront, my wife has been a constant beacon of light in my world, but for a man to turn to his wife and say something is wrong took more strength than I knew I had at the time. Even more so, for a man to admit publicly he is struggling is RARE, and I hate that. 

In early December 2023, our lives took a turn that’s all too familiar to most reading this. A 10.5 cm mass was found on my left kidney, and in the blink of one chilly December afternoon my reality shattered to pieces. Being the millennial I am, I quickly took to the Internet and I noticed there, in fact, were people online talking about their diagnosis.

“Wohoo,” I thought. I could connect with people. One other thing caught my eye though… I could count the number of men making truly meaningful conversation about their feelings on most of these online forums. Why was this?

I wasn’t sure of the “why” yet, but I had a good idea of the reason. Even in the face of a life altering diagnosis, many men brush their feelings off, and continue. Sure, I could continue, but I wanted to shout out to the world that this is unfair! Rachel and I had just started discussing starting a family, and then boom, cancer hits.

Of all months for it to hit, it had to be December. The same month my mom passed away in 2019. I wanted to go away, like far away. Anywhere but in that damn doctor’s office where I saw the black and white screen picture of my abdomen with an invading mass.

Does misery love company? I think personally misery hates company, but “stands” it just enough to forget reality. Truth be told, the first week, I didn’t want to talk to anyone.

Slowly but surely, I found talking about my newly found tumor was therapeutic. Soon, I had built a small but strong group of friends that had all went through something similar.

I went into surgery terrified but felt a strong sense of comfort that others made it out “just fine”. Surgery was successful, and I was diagnosed with stage 2 kidney cancer. The cancer diagnosis was expected, but we were “thankful” for stage 2.

Soon after, I found myself shot out of a cannon into the area of patient advocacy. I wanted so bad to comfort those who were just diagnosed. If I could just make a difference in one person’s outlook, I would feel like I did my job.

Mental health is something we talk a lot about in this country, but all too often we don’t see it acted on. According to the latest statistics, male suicide rates are 4 times that of women. I’m not here to debate men vs. women, but there is a clear reason for this. Men don’t talk about their issues, and too often when they do, they are ignored.

In light of June being Men’s Mental Health Awareness Month, I hope to see this change, starting with myself.

I don’t have all the answers as to the “why” men don’t talk about their issues. I’m here to tell you though, it helped. I’m here to tell you it’s okay, to not be okay. I’m here to tell you, I have felt those feelings you are feeling. I’m here to tell you, that communication is KEY. If you communicate your feelings/issues with someone, and they walk out of your life, be kind and open the door for them on the way out.

A cancer diagnosis sucks, let’s be honest. I have found, though, that building a small community of meaningful people makes the difference. I know it does, and it will for you too. Find those people and hold them close. Give them their flowers, because they are there for you when you need them most.