Monday, August 24, 2009

The Survivors’ Tales

At the team Silent Mile last Saturday, each of the patient honorees present spoke for a minute or so about their cancer experience. I thought I would summarize these remarks. Maybe someone out there will take inspiration or hope from them.

My message to the team was that four marathons and seven years ago, I was undergoing chemotherapy for Hodgkin lymphoma. I am very grateful to be alive, and wanted to thank everyone there for all they do so that future cancer patients can have the same hope. I used the rest of my time to talk about Madelyne, a local seven year old girl recently diagnosed with leukemia.

Then the rest of the patient honorees spoke – they are such inspirations! Every one of them has done one or more marathons, century bike races, and/or triathons (including Emma, who did a triathlon for children last summer).

Ed had acute myelogenous leukemia when he was 19, and nearly died. His life was saved when his sister made a bone marrow donation to him. We got to meet his sister, because she was there along with Ed’s lovely wife, Leslie. The three of them, another sister, and a nephew are all doing the Rock ‘N Roll Half-Marathon next month at Virginia Beach to celebrate his 20 year survival. In the last few years, Ed has survived two more cancers – a growth in his neck and also melanoma. He wonders if these were caused by earlier harsh treatments, and stressed how important it is to have better and more effective treatments.

Kristi spoke about developing lymphoma while pregnant. Her grandmother died from Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, and her mother had the Hodgkin variety, so Kristi knew she had one or the other when the initial problems showed up. It was Hodgkin’s and she delivered her child, survived and got on with her life. It has been 13+ years now. Just this past winter, she found out that she had thyroid cancer and it is believed that the radiation that helped to save her life before probably caused it. Like Ed, she stressed the need for better and safer cures.

Nicki is a walking, and running, miracle. She survived Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma more than 12 years ago with a bone marrow transplant from a stranger who is now more like an older sister or aunt. Even so, her odds of living were about 5%. I don’t think there were many dry eyes when she talked about the recent death of two dear friends from cancer, and how we need better cures – a common theme that morning. Nicki's mom, Sue, herself a breast cancer survivor, also came out Saturday to support the team.

Holly, Emma’s mom, spoke for Emma, who had turned 10 the day before. When Emma was 10 weeks old, she was found to have acute lymphocytic leukemia, and she and her family went through hell. Holly felt a number of times that her baby wouldn’t make it, and you can tell she feels such a deep gratitude that her child is a healthy survivor. Go here to see a photo of Emma on the 8th anniversary of her remission from A.L.L., this past Valentine’s Day. Everyone of us feels such wonder at seeing Emma as a healthy young girl. And it brought tears of joy to my eyes to see this photo of Emma last year as she finished a triathlon:
Paul spoke last. A dedicated long distance cyclist, Paul is kind of odd man out in this group, because while he has a blood cancer, he is mostly asymptomatic. He stressed that he has not yet gone through the tough times that the rest of us have, but knows that they are coming. He has a very slow growing cancer, chronic lymphocytic leukemia. At some point significant symptoms will occur and he will do chemo, which will get the symptoms under control, until they return. This cycle will repeat until at some point, the chemo will no longer work. But the hope for Paul and other C.L.L. sufferers is that a truly effective cure will be developed well before that point.

And that, as well as for more cures for other blood cancers, and cancers in general, are why we are all doing Team in Training!



Katie said...

Great post, Art -- soo full of inspiration. And I can't believe Emma did a tri that young! Truly amazing!

Racn4acure said...

Thanks Katie. they are all such inspirations to me! Art