Saturday, December 10, 2011

Silent Mile Message

The Team in Training Spring Team has formed and is having a silent mile, like the one last July, today. Unfortunately, I can't be there, but I asked Kate to read something from me. Here is what I submitted to her.

I wish I could be here today to say hello and more importantly, to say "thank you." Yesterday marked a big milestone for me, my nine year remission anniversary from Hodgkin's lymphoma. Yes, nine years ago, I was celebrating finally being done with six months of chemo, one of the hardest things I have ever been through. I was eagerly awaiting a CT Scan in a few days, which would turn up no evidence of cancer. It was a thrilling time, but also a little sobering. A couple weeks before, in the chemo room for the last time, the man next to me nearly died when they tried a tiny dose of a new kind of chemo on him. For a few minutes, doctors and nurses frantically ran around the room like ants at a picnic. "I'm sorry," the oncologist said to the man and to his daughter after they revived and stabilized him. "That new chemo clearly isn't going to work for you, and there are no other options left for you because the current treatment isn't working at all." Imagine getting that message just before Christmas or Chanukah. Here I was, getting ready to return to my regular life and hopefully feel healthy again, while at the same time, this guy three feet from me was essentially being told to get his affairs in order. He was about the same age that I am now, which still feels far too young to die.

I've tried to do a lot of living in these nine years. Nine more birthdays and wedding anniversaries. Get-togethers with family and friends. Trips to Alaska, Yellowstone, the Grand Tetons, and Glacier National Park. Lots of great hikes. Lazing at the beach with a cold drink. Being there when my granddaughter was born. Being a comfort to my sister Ann as she fought, and lost this spring, her four year battle with breast cancer. None of this could have happened for me without research that figured out how to effectively fight Hodgkin's lymphoma, at least most of the time.

When I had cancer, I was struck by two concepts. The first was that if I indeed survived, I owed my life to people who came years and decades before me. They were the patients who suffered horribly; they were the nurses who tended to them; they were the doctors who tried new things and made observations; they were the medical researchers and the biochemists and the geneticists who figured out what would work and not work. And they were the people who provided funding for medical research. Without their efforts, I'd be pushing up daisies - or as I like to say with the Shamrock Marathon coming up, shamrocks - right now.

The other key concept was that when I was well and healthy again, I wanted to do something to make a difference, to pay it forward, to help others. I wanted to be one of those people that cancer patients, when reflecting on their survival, would be thankful for. So another thing I have done in my nine years of earnest living has been to participate in Team in Training five times, and also, most recently, the Komen breast cancer 60 mile walk. And by virtual of your participation in Team in Training, you are also one of the people that future cancer patients - unknown to you - will thank. None of us can cure cancer by ourselves - even the greatest doctors and medical minds cannot. But just as tiny rain drops, one by one, will form a mighty river, so too are each of you helping to create a flood that will one day wash away incurable cancer. So from this cancer survivor, in absentia, thank you so very much. And - GO TEAM!

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