When we are diagnosed with cancer, besides wanting to hear the words remission, the next thing we often look for is, well, not really a “thing”, but rather others who have faced our similar cancer, and have survived not just initially, but long term. And if you are lucky enough, you might just actually meet others. I cannot say I was lucky that way. We did not have the internet back in 1989, and though I was aware of 3 others who were being treated for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma like me, I never was able to meet them. Unlike today’s chemo suites, our chemos were given individually, isolated from each other.
As time went on, and my discovery of the internet, I soon learned that I would meet others who had survived not only Hodgkin’s, but other cancers. Soon, as we discovered each other, many of us would arrange to meet up in small, unofficial reunions or gatherings. For many of us, these meetings meant a lot more to us than what we could have ever imagined.
A lot of us long term survivors deal with a lot of late side effects courtesy of our radiation and chemotherapy treatments. But when we often feel alone, isolated because either doctors, our families, or our friends, are unable to understand how we are feeling, or what we are dealing with, meeting another survivor, we know that we are having a conversation with someone who “gets” us.
Over my 26 years of survivorship, I have met many, many other survivors. Some are in their first decade, many are in their second and third decades, and there are even some that are well into their fifth decade or more of survivorship. But each and every one that I have met, has had their own unique history of side effects, health events, and if that were not enough, normal expected and unexpected mortality challenges.
To be honest, I have no idea the actual number of patients and survivors that I have met over the years. This past weekend I officially met another one though. I got to meet her family, husband and children. And one of the few times I noticed this, a reaction from her husband, who seemed to appreciate the fact, that his wife was meeting someone who “got” not only what she has had to deal with, but as a caregiver, challenges for him as well.
It took longer for me to drive to meet them, than we got to visit and talk. But I believe, that she would feel the same as I do, that our society of survivors exist, support, and survive because of our need to know we are not alone, that others do understand what we have been through.
I expect to be around a long time yet, and I imagine I will meet many more. I look forward to it. If you are ever in southwest Florida, look me up.