It was late Friday afternoon. It was shortly before the end of the day and the start of the Christmas holiday. The hours flowed by like frozen maple syrup. It was finally the end of the day, and the end of the work week, the start of the long weekend.
Then it hit me. It’s almost Christmas, and I’m still alive. Isn’t that amazing?
Christmas is a special milepost in my treatment history and my family’s history. My original diagnosis was the day after Thanksgiving in 2000. Relapse number one was diagnosed in October 2001. I had inpatient chemo the first week of the following December and the week following Christmas. Relapse number two came in early December 2002. There was a really good chance that 2002 was going to be my last Christmas.
Early January 2003 a specialist at a world renowned cancer center told me I was terminally ill and further treatment wouldn’t cure me (though he thought I might “get lucky” with a clinical trial they were working on).
November 2003 brought good news. I had a PET/CT scan six months after my allogeneic bone marrow transplant. No signs of cancer, but there were signs that my new immune system was at work (a little too much, which was a good thing).
My brother Bart died of multiple myeloma in early December 2006. I think his services were a couple weeks before Christmas.
I was actively treated for cancer, and my treatment’s side effects, in six hospitals in four cities in three states over a period of five years. For two years prior to that, I had symptoms of the disease that went undiagnosed.
Am I a living medical miracle? The product of the work of a tremendous group of people who treated me? The beneficiary of just dumb luck or divine intervention? I can’t say for sure. Maybe I’m still here because of all of the above. There’s no point in me trying to figure it out. Whatever the reasons, it’s amazing I’m still alive.