If you have followed “Paul’s Heart,” you notice a countdown box off to the right of the screen. It has a milestone, that to the majority of people, represent something once thought impossible, surviving 25 years from cancer. Yes, today I begin my 25th year of having survived Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. So the countdown should change from twelve months to go, to days left to go.
I am a 24 year survivor of cancer. I have lived half of my life in spite of a disease that kills millions and yet a cure for all seems so far away. Another year down, I know it is no small feat. But once again, as always, my heart is too heavy to celebrate yet another year gone by. I miss so many that I have had to say goodbye to, and this year gone by I include Kim, Karen, Peter, and Michael.
Last week, as I sat across from my father in his hospital room, a nurse asked my father who had been just told his cancer had returned, “what would you like?” To which my father responded, “to survive cancer like my son.”
Today I recognize, but not celebrate, my 24th completed year of remission for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. It is a sad commentary that in the twenty-first century, we still have not found a cure for cancer for everyone. I am disappointed that follow-up guidelines are not more well known so that survivors are better followed-up for late developing side effects. I want to see better surveillance of patients for critical side effects for drugs that are known to have the possibility of causing side effects, some potentially fatal.
We are so close. Seriously, part of the survivor guilt I deal with, is why I have gotten to live, while so many do not. I am hoping that if anything at this point, is that I may see in my lifetime, a cure for cancer is found, patients are followed more closely during their treatments, and survivors are better followed-up. And as the days count down to one next year, I want to celebrate.