Thursday, April 26, 2012

Toasting Ten Years!

The expression “Time Flies” is used a lot. It sounds trite. But in what feels like the blink of an eye, 10 years have gone by since I found out I had a very big medical problem, which turned out to be Hodgkin’s lymphoma. And it makes me realize that time does indeed fly. Where does it go?

Exactly ten years ago, feeling perfectly healthy except for an odd pain in my side, I stood in a dark room as my doctor examined my thoracic X-ray. “You have a large mass in the middle of your chest, something that should not be there,” he said. I felt as if time, and I, were frozen in place. It was like a bolt from the blue! I wondered what it was, knowing somehow it was going to be terrible, and I wondered how long I would live.

I still don’t know the answer to that last question, but I do have a partial answer: at least 10 years. 10 more years now experiencing the joys, along with a few sorrows, of life. 10 more years to create good memories and to grow as a person. 3,653 more days (a few leap days were in the mix) to attempt to seize the day. I believe that I've tried to make good use of those days, most of them anyway. I am very grateful to still be here. And not just to be alive, but to be strong and healthy as well.

During those 10 years, I held my granddaughter on the day of her birth, and have watched her grow to become a happy five year old. I’ve seen places I’d never seen before, including Alaska, Yellowstone, and Glacier National Park. I've hiked in the mountains and at the shore, and seen amazing wildlife - including wolves pursuing Dall sheep. I've enjoyed great books and music.  I've experienced great get-togethers with family and friends. I comforted my sister during her final months. I walked 60 miles in three days last fall in her memory, with tears in my eyes a few times.  And I became a marathoner and a half-marathoner six times over, five of them with Team in Training! The sixth time was in March in the Shamrock, to celebrate my 10 year mark a month or so early.

During my 10 years of surviving, over 525,000 Americans have died from a blood cancer. I easily could have been in that group instead of in the group of survivors. What made me different from those 525,000 people, a few of which I have personally known? Luck? Good medical care? Divine intervention? Determination and grit? Winning scientific research? Family support? All of the above? I don’t know, but I am grateful.

No cancer is easy to endure or survive. Even the supposedly “curable” cancers often are not. If you are out there raising money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, or one of the other organizations fighting for a cure, this survivor thanks you. You, and people like you in the past, helped to give me 10 years that I would not necessarily have had otherwise.

You know what? I think I am going to go for 10 more now!

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