In my last post I announced that I had been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Today I am happy to report that I have successfully completed the first phase of my treatment (chemotherapy) and have received a clean PET scan!
This means I’m essentially cancer-free and ready to move on to the final stage of treatment, which will be a couple of weeks of low-dose radiation. The radiation is designed to destroy any remaining microscopic cancer cells not eliminated by the chemo. So, I still have a bit to go, but treatment is moving in a very positive direction.
It has been about 3 months since I first found out something was wrong and in some ways it feels like 3 years and in others like just a few weeks. One thing is for sure, though: my life has been changed forever.
Finding out you have cancer is like realizing the foundation you’ve been standing on, previously believing to be solid and enduring, is suddenly riddled with holes, precarious and uncertain. Everything shifts, but most especially your perspective on life changes in a profound way.
In fact, one of the gifts of cancer is gaining a true understanding that you must no longer take anything for granted. When I found out I was sick, I started living more fully in the present and thinking about what things were most essential to me. I came to understand the importance of seizing ahold of what truly mattered and letting the rest go.
After all, the rest is just static.
For me, the list of critical things was surprisingly short. At the top: friends and family. In the end, what else really matters more than the people who love you? Nothing. The outpouring of support and encouragement I’ve received has humbled and inspired me; it has made me want to be a better friend and family member.
Next on the list: lifestyle. Am I living the life I truly want, day in and day out? When I look back at the end (whenever that comes), will I be glad of my choices? Of how and where I spent my time? These questions have prompted a lot of soul-searching for me. The final item on the list: writing. Even on my sickest days, in the midst of the chemo, I thought about writing, felt compelled to tell stories. It is an essential part of me.
I’m getting better, and I am very lucky in that I should soon move on from this (as much as one can ever truly move on from cancer), but the experience has changed me. I suspect it will continue to change me for a long time to come.
Sick or well, cancer or no cancer, at least now I know what matters to me. And for that I am grateful.