Farewell To Two Friends
Finding out that you have been cured of your cancer, only to discover decades later, what cured you is destroying you, is like opening a Pandora’s Box.
I went through years, eighteen to be exact, wondering why so many other long term cancer survivors had to deal with so many issues, caused by their treatments that cured them, and I was basically left unscathed. And in 2008, I discovered by a miracle of a chance, that I was not as unscathed as I had believed. I repeatedly mentioned to everyone pre- and post- surgery, that I had been through Hodgkin’s Disease, radiation therapy, extremely loxic chemo (especially to the heart and lungs), and no spleen, and this was all before I knew anything. I was handled and treated as any other patient who came through the doors, before and after.
In the weeks that followed, I would discover any number of things that have happened to my body, like a volcano lying in wait to erupt, had so many things that should have been watched and had not. And because I rarely saw doctors, there was no reason to suspect. Once discovered, my confidence in my health was shaken and shattered. In spite of optimism from family and friends, confidence by medical personnel that all was going to be well, I could not get convince anyone that this was more than just “in my head”.
Today I received news that a fellow survivor, someone also battling severe late term side effects passed away. He went in for heart surgery due to issues developed from his treatments long ago, and though he showed promise of recovery, passed away. A week ago, another friend had passed away from issues related to her cancer and treatments. I cannot call them secondary issues, because over recent years, one thing just piled on top of another. I know Wendy is going to dread the next several days. After an inability to grieve nearly my entire life, since my heart surgery, I have found out how, and it hurts. I knew Karen and Peter for so long and was with them in spirit each time they faced another issue. It was more than an understanding. It is pure knowledge. And it sucks to know, not just think, that this could be me. Pandora’s Box has been opened and while those around me try to close the lid, my hand gets caught every time.
Fortunately, treatments used today are less toxic. Treatments come with less severe side effects, short term or long term. And while all a cancer patient wants is to hear the word “remission” because it will mean no longer dealing with cancer, current protocol for good or bad, means that the fight with cancer will be something we do for the rest of our lives. Oncologists decades ago did not expect us to live this long. Society did not expect us to survive. And many of us have survived. In a period like ths however, the pain and fear of the known and unknown is just so difficult to understand by family and friends, co-workers, strangers, and myself especially.
Karen and Peter, I will so miss your endless inspiration and support that you selflessly gave even in your roughest moments. Know you will never be forgotten, and because of you, many will now know what they are going through is real and to be committed to get the care we need.