Survivor Teaches Lessons Learned From Testicular Cancer

"It took a life threatening disease for me to slow down, stop, and get the clarity I needed to see what I wanted out of life. I tell my audiences, 'You don't have to suffer like I did to realize that.'"

Michael Veltri
close up portrait of Michael Veltri

Michael Veltri is a professional keynote speaker, author, and leadership expert. He combines his background as a testicular cancer survivor, US Marine, entrepreneur, and martial arts expert to teach organizations how to work more efficiently and effectively. In his keynote speeches and training workshops, Veltri coaches audiences to use the lessons he learned from his experience with cancer to help them with their professional and personal lives.

“Before I got cancer I was always on the go. I was so overwhelmed with work I didn’t know how to create the space I needed to get control of my personal and professional life,” said Veltri. “It took a life threatening disease for me to slow down, stop, and get the clarity I needed to see what I wanted out of life. I tell my audiences, ‘You don’t have to suffer like I did to realize that.’”

The American Cancer Society originally told Veltri’s testicular cancer story in the Stories of Hope section of our website in 2009. He’d been diagnosed with cancer after noticing a lump on his testicle and having it checked out. After his testicle was surgically removed, Veltri thought he was in the clear until follow-up scans a few months later revealed the cancer had spread to his lung. Treatment was a grueling course of intense chemotherapy followed by lung surgery. Recovery was long and painful. But Veltri says it was also a wake-up call.

“During the dark days of cancer, I realized I wanted to get married and start a family and I didn’t have to just work, work, work. Success had become a trap and I had become successfully miserable,” said Veltri. Since then, Veltri did get married and he and his wife now have a 2-year-old daughter. “No matter what I face in my life now – it’s not cancer,” said Veltri. “If I can survive that, starting a new business is a piece of cake. Getting married and having kids is a piece of cake.”

‘I love helping cancer patients.’

One way Veltri makes sense of the pain and agony he went through is to use what he learned to help others. “You can’t understand unless you’ve gone through this,” said Veltri. “That’s why I love helping cancer patients.”

Veltri has volunteered with American Cancer Society Road To Recovery® since 2004, driving cancer patients to and from chemotherapy and radiation appointments. He says most patients do not have a lot of opportunities to spend time with a successful cancer survivor. He remembers driving a breast cancer patient to a radiation treatment. Her hair was falling out and she was feeling miserable. He says when he reminded her that side effects from treatment are a sign the treatment is working, she stopped feeling sorry for herself. “I’m a very optimistic person,” said Veltri. “If my glass is 99% empty, I’m looking at it like it’s 1% full.”

In 2010, Veltri put a team together to run in an American Cancer Society marathon and spoke at the event. His team raised more than $30,000 to help the Society fund cancer research and provide programs and services to help prevent cancer and support cancer patients and survivors. It was Veltri’s first-ever marathon. “If I can run a marathon at age 42 with 1 ½ lungs, no one else has an excuse,” said Veltri. “You can do it. Anyone can do it.”

Veltri today

Veltri has considered himself to be free of cancer since his lung surgery in 2003. He still sees his oncologist once a year for follow-up testing. He could see a general practitioner instead, but he says seeing his original oncologist gives him peace of mind.

In addition to his consulting business, Veltri has written a book that is going to be published later this year. He uses the power of stories to motivate audiences into taking action to improve their lives. “One of the most powerful stories is my cancer story and how they can take my solution and apply it to their life,” said Veltri. “Everyone has a friend, family member, or themselves who has had a personal experience with cancer.”

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

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