Friday, 26 January 2018

Eighteen and Cancer - by Tamás Vincze

This week's post is written by Tamás Vincze, a former cancer patient and the author of Eighteen and Cancer; a recently published book about his experience with the illness.

Cancer ran in my family, just as I think it might have in yours or others you know. I have unfortunately lost grandparents to it but never thought that it was something waiting for me in life.

I’ll take you back a few years to 2003 when I was eighteen. Life couldn’t have been any better. School was out and the summer was in full swing. It was amazing. More importantly I also planned what I wanted to achieve in the next few years of my life (overachieving too runs in the family). The main goal was moving abroad to live and study (I’m originally from Hungary). I felt everything was aligning nicely in my life.

But something happened after the summer. I’d feel more tired by the day, had difficulties concentrating in school, experienced severe night sweats and so on. It was like a bad case of the flu so I mostly ignored it. But one day I woke up to a pain in my neck and chest, like two hands gradually suffocating me. I felt my neck with my own hands and immediately rushed to the mirror. Standing in front of it was one of those “what do I do now?” moments. Two big lumps about the size of a golf ball. What the…? Could it…?

It was. Stage II Hodgkin lymphoma. I started chemotherapy in late 2003. Cancer turned my life upside down but I was very fortunate to have had the patience and presence to pay attention to what was happening inside and around me. Treatment lasted until the summer of 2004 and by that autumn I was in full remission fortunately. I’m skipping the middle part as I don’t want to bore you. It’s all in the book.

Why write a book about my cancer story? Especially well after 10 years? Good question. Not to play it down but I always thought that it was just as much of a part of my life as where I grew up or went to school. Perhaps I felt this way because it happened so early in my life. I also asked myself why would anyone care about someone else’s cancer story. If you’ve been through it already why would you want to read about it and if you are not touched by it then why bother?

During the early part of 2016, I read a very moving book called Not Fade Away. It tells the story of a businessman who after retiring in 1997 at the age of 46, to spend more time with his family, unfortunately passed away in 2002 after a battle with stomach cancer. It is a gem of a book about the shortness of life and inspired me to start thinking about my own story and how would I share that.

After reading that book it was time to take action. I let go of all this fear in my head and started writing. Turning my old notes and journals into this book and reflecting more on this episode in my life, with more than a decade of hindsight, was a very long process but I’m glad no one told me that before. Writing out and sharing all those memories, emotions and experiences from this journey was therapy.

Most cancer books inadvertently turn into a misery memoir and not too many talk about what happens in your mind when facing such adversity. How do you process the news? How do you get out of that feeling of hopelessness that’s initially there? These, amongst others, were some of the questions I was trying to answer in this short book.

If you are a kindred spirit, have an inspiring story, have any questions or just want to chat please feel free to reach out on

My book is also available on Amazon.

Perhaps the best part about publishing this book is the foundation I was fortunate enough to partner with. 10% of the net proceeds from the book sales will go to support the amazing mission of Bátor Tábor (“Camp Courage” in English), a philanthropic organisation in Hungary, that runs therapeutic recreation camps for cancer-afflicted and chronically ill children and their families.

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