It has taken me a bit longer to get to post #200 than I had planned. In trying to balance my own cancer survival issues, my father’s health took a serious turn several weeks ago, and my energies have been concentrated on his recovery. Two weeks ago, I gave a “Survivor” speech at the Upper Perk Relay For Life during their “Fight Back” ceremony. I took one of the speeches I have used this year, and re-formatted it into a professional boxing narrative modeled after some popular boxing networks, having changed the names for satirical purposes to give the comparison of a cancer battle and survival to the fight for life.
And with that, I present post #200…
Commentator: Good evening and welcome to another great Saturday night of what has the potential to be the greatest gathering of fighters. I’m John Lamplighter and I’m joined by my co-host Lenny Albert.
Lenny: How’s everyone doing tonight? Great to be here John.
Lamplighter: One of our feature fighters this evening is a local guy hailing from Lansdale and a solid veteran fighter. For more we go to our field reporter, Joe Noggin.
Noggin: Paul Edelman is no ordinary fighter. Living with cancer nearly half of his life, he was diagnosed by accident, the common cold.
Paul: I just discovered this lump in my neck, and it just wouldn’t go away. My doctor wasn’t concerned about it because of its location, and gave me an anti-inflammatory. The swelling went down, but when the meds stopped, the lump came back hard and furious.
Noggin: Weeks later, and several second opinions, Edelman was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Disease at the age of 22, stage 3b. The testing used is now obsolete, and the treatments he went through are only used as a last resort. Both of these conditions due to progress in research, assited by funding from events like the Relay For Life.
Paul: It’s just amazing. In less than 25 years, researchers have found easier methods to diagnose cancer and safe methods to treat cancer. Side effects are fewer and less severe. And more people are surviving.
Noggin: Edelman’s story is nothing less than a miracle. Decades ago, all the common person believed was that everyone died from cancer, that you could catch cancer from other people, that having cancer was something to be ashamed of. Tonight, Edelman continues his fight in his survival and life with cancer. Now let’s go back to the ring as the ring announcer is set to begin.
Ring announcer: Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls, welcome to Upper Perk’s Relay For Life for a great Saturday evening with the toughest fighters you will ever meet. Some are just in the beginning stages, others, ring veterans. Now… let’s get ready to battllllllllleeeeee!!!
Our current fighter was set for 30 treatments of radiation therapy and 8 rounds of chemo. With more than 23 years since his last treatment, he recognizes that his life did not end with diagnosis, that his life is not defined by having had cancer, but lives in spite of having had cancer. I give you, Paul Edelman
Paul: I had everything going for me. I was getting married in six months. I felt alone. I was scared. I never knew anyone who had gone through cancer, or at least lived.
Paul: I took every treatment, one day at a time. Of my treatments, only 8 injections were going to make me sick. And of those that made me sick, it was only going to be for 2-3 hours. That meant I was going to really feel like crap for 24 hours or less, not for 10 months of the entire treatment schedule. Completed one treatment, knew I could get through another. Once I got half way, I knew I could get through the rest. Once I was just two treatments away, I could see the end. I knew I could do it.
Paul: The financial toll. I was lucky. I had health benefits back then. Real good benefits. But having to miss work for diagnostics and treatments was costly. I saw unfortunate behaviors from my co-workers who felt that I was getting special treatment, to this day, I still don’t know what they were thinking I was getting.
Paul: I continued to see doctors for many years after my treatments ended. They’re called follow ups. They are to make sure the cancer doesn’t return, and that if for some reason, a late side effect develops, it can be dealt with early enough. But my doctors forgot about me. So I did not remind them. Eight years later, on my own, late side effects made a huge impact on my life. I wish I had still been following up with my oncologist. They could have caught these things sooner.
Paul: I never realized how difficult it would be for me to develop my new normal. Employers back then had not yet been introduced to the newly passed American With Disabilities Act. Insurance companies made me angry throwing statistics at me as reason for not wanting me as a client. Let me tell you about statistics, we are winning the fight against cancer. Survival rates are increasing every year.
Paul: My wife and I divorced. Chances are, it might have been the cancer. I was diagnosed before we got married, but it was definitely alot for someone to have to deal with. I wanted better for her and told her I would not be mad if she had not married me. But just as hard, was dating. Just as inconvenient as cancer being diagnosed, there is no convenient time to bring up cancer on a date.
Paul: I married again. I have two beautiful daughters that we adopted from China. I do deal with some late side effects, but they are managed because I still see the doctors. Because of research, doctors now have a protocol to follow up on survivors, to make sure that side effects are dealt with.
Paul: I have reached a new level in my fight with cancer. Telling my story. It is my goal to show and tell as many people as I can, cancer can be beat. We must continue to support research with funding and events like the Relay For Life so that everyone has the chance to survive. Whether it be written word, or spoken, my story is real. I stand before you, a fighter, a 23-year survivor of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
Paul: One of my favorite movies is Rocky 2. There is a part in the movie where Rocky’s wife Adrien lapses into a coma after giving birth to their son. When she comes to and realizes that Rocky has been by her side the entire time, and he looks exhausted, she asks him to come closer to her, as there is something she wants to tell Rocky.
“There’s something I want you to do for me.” And he looks at her. “Win. Win.” Just then, Rocky’s trainer yells, “what are we waiting for?” And of course Rocky fights on for another four movies. But that is exactly what I hope my story inspires you all to do. Win this fight. And tonight, this one is for my dad who is up at Lehigh Valley Hospital tonight beginning his quest as a survivor of lung cancer
Paul: My final round, I would like to leave you with this, an expression that I sign off with, when congratulating a patient on either remission or some milestone.
“As I continue down the road of remission, I will keep looking in my rear view mirror to make sure that you are still following me. And if you haven’t gotten onto that highway yet, I will drive fifty-five so that you can catch up to me.”