Today’s post is dedicated to a young man in Southern Florida. I am not using his name to protect his privacy. I have never met this “kid” in person (at age 23 he is just a kid), only through the internet. He was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, just as I, at around the same age as I. I learned of him as he was completing his second or third treatment. Tomorrow, he will receive his last treatment. I will be anxious to hear of his every moment from the impressive milestone.
The day had finally arrived. It was a week late because the prior week, my blood counts were too low. The option was to modify the chemo for that week, or delay the treatment a week and see how I feel, or just cancel the treatment all together. The doctors decided that it was best for me to delay my treatment for one week. I had done so well up to this point, had gone through 7 1/2 cycles. I needed this one last set of infusions, and I would have solidified my chances of surviving Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
That Friday, March 3, 1990 began just like the other Fridays of treatment. I would go into the oncology office, by myself. My name would be called twice. The first time was to do bloodwork and confirm that I could handle going through the final treatment. I had been cleared.
The second time that my name had been called, it was to walk back to the chemotherapy suite. As usual, my oncology nurse Brenda was busy setting up all of the syringes. I sat down in the chair and began to roll up my sleeves. I was not sure which arm would be used. I just know that my veins had been destroyed by all of the chemicals that had been used to save my life.
Brenda turned around, looked at me and asked, “you ready? You have finally gotten here, the end. This could not have been easy for you. These are such hard drugs to use.” I gave her an agreeing nod, and like that, she had already stuck the needle into my arm. Half of the cycle resulted me dealing with nausea, the second half, did not give me any problems.
And so over the next hour, I received my final treatment.
After the last drip, Brenda began the process of removing the catheter from my arm. “Now Paul, when you get up from this chair, you have to imagine that there is a marching band playing for you, in triumph.” My eyes lit up and all of a sudden, I could “hear” the band as I walked down that long hall from the chemo suite, for what I was determined to be the last time.
With the internet today, over 23 years later, internet support groups now make a daily post announcing those who are completing their treatments. And today, there are pictures of these milestone. Someone is either holding a sign announcing the date and the event, or many hospitals have a huge bell that is rung each time a patient completes their treatment. Even more impressive, is that every day, people join the millions of cancer survivors, MILLIONS! Unlike 23 years ago, I know many of these survivors.
Tomorrow, my friend will complete his treatment, twelve cycles, countless injections. This is no easy fete for anyone to accomplish. The physical toll is nothing compared to what the mental toll can take through the whole experience. From the fear of death, to the frustrations of having ups and downs, and no way to control them, the emotional toll can be brutal. He was blessed during this journey with having the strongest support than I can ever recall. As I went through my battle, I remember often the times that I said “I wish I was younger so that my parents could have made the decisions about this cancer for me”. His mother has been by his side from the first moment. As a parent myself, I cannot imagine having either of my children have to face such a disease.
But Dude, you have done it! You have gotten to your final treatment. You have done it with courage, strength, and determination. The support of your mother, sister, grandparents clearly played a roll in beating this cancer. Tomorrow is your day. Congratulations and this is for you…
“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.” This is a quote that I often write to many who recognize such milestone days in their battles with cancer.
It is over 23 years for me. I wish you the same lengthy and healthy longevity that I have experienced. Good luck tomorrow.
Your friend, Paul