I had an allogeneic bone marrow transplant ten years ago this month. I managed to get into remission number three in March 2003. I’ve been in remission ever since. The transplant probably cured me of the Hodgkin’s lymphoma that threatened my life.
I was originally diagnosed in December 2000. The cancer came and went and came and went and came in December 2002. The next month one second opinion I got was that I was terminally ill and that further attempts at a cure wouldn’t work. Let’s just say by then, I’d developed a healthy skepticism of what doctors told me. I ignored his advice, had the transplant and ten years later, here I am.
It was a pretty awful process. I was in isolation for about three weeks and physically felt awful and mentally felt totally stressed out (it’s that ‘Oh my God my life is on the line and I could soon die a terrible, painful death’ kind of stress, not the run of the mill ‘How can I get my work done before deadline?’ kind of stress). It could’ve been much worse, as I avoided the two major, most common complications, infections and severe graft vs. host disease (though I did get the good kind, mild chronic graft vs. host disease). Most importantly, the cancer didn’t come back either.
Every year at about this time, we celebrate another year without cancer. Years three and five were big milestones, and ten years has a nice ring to it. Five years ago, my wife organized a surprise party for me. I was utterly clueless about it (surprise, surprise) and we had a great time. This year was another surprise celebration with friends at my home. Yet again, I was utterly clueless.
Maybe it’s the pessimist in me, but I can’t help but think about those I’ve known who aren’t as fortunate as I am. My brother died of cancer in 2006. Friends I made at Gilda’s Club Delaware Valley are no longer with us. A friend from high school is coping with the illness of his wife (brain cancer). She’s getting hospice care at home. It looks like they ran short of miracles. While we’re celebrating, my friend is enduring the end of one slow motion living nightmare and will be putting the pieces together after his wife passes. For some unknown reason, those were experiences my wife managed to avoid.