Daniel Mendez whispered — sometimes whimpered — those words to his father during four grueling week-long cycles of chemotherapy in 2003, during his battle against testicular cancer, a diagnosis he received at the young age of 18.
“The first two cycles were OK. The third and fourth were brutal,” Daniel remembers. “My parents would pick me up out of bed and carry me to the car to take me for treatment. If it wasn’t for them, I would’ve never made it.”
The pain and anguish may now be just memories, but a plaintiveness in his eyes reflects the impact of those dark days when he almost threw in the towel.
Today, Daniel is himself a father and any hint of melancholy disappears as his eyes well with joy when he thinks about his two sons, the family he may never have had if he had given up the fight.
“I was incredibly lucky to have access to wonderful doctors and nurses that looked after me during that time. And I was also lucky that my type of cancer had a treatment,” Daniel said. “Many others couldn’t make it and that’s why I never take my life for granted.”
At the treatment center in Santiago, Chile, Daniel remembers scanning the room filled with cancer patients hooked to IV tubes and monitors, recognizing that some of them knew they were in the twilight of their lives, and the treatment was just an effort to gain a few more weeks or months. Others were fighting, hoping to survive and move on.
“Seeing people like that,” Daniel said, “that was a life-changing experience. It was an inside look at what cancer can do to you and your loved ones.”
More devastating news came along with Daniel’s diagnosis — because of his type of cancer and treatment, the doctors told him he would likely lose his fertility. But at 18, that wasn’t much on his mind. He was just fighting to survive.