This time of year is always difficult for me. One would think that after all this time, it would not be such a hard time. But I can actually cut my life in half, as if I had led two distinct different lives.
I have written repeatedly that I am not a big fan of holidays, especially when they are clustered together as the Winter holiday season of Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day.
It was 28 years ago, the week before Thanksgiving, that I first heard the words “Hodgkin’s Disease,” cancer. And there was no reason for me to having been given that news. I was happy. I was healthy. Never really gave much thought about anything.
But as I grew frustrated about a health issue, the stronger the denial. What started out as a “common cold”, led to an increasing pain that I felt was sports related (major denial), was eventually diagnosed. Were it not for a friend/coworker, who referred me to a doctor to get my “sports” injury looked at, I would never have been steered in the direction that I needed. Six second opinions later, it was finally diagnosed. And so, the holiday season of 1988 became one of anger, denial, bargaining, depression, and into the new year of 1989, acceptance.
The holiday season of 1988 was taken away from me by cancer. And while I often feel this resentment and occasional anger each year, there are clearly things that I have to be thankful for because of what happened during this time period.
I am very glad that I did not punch Dr. G in the face that day that I got the diagnosis. Things would have turned out much differently had the law gotten involved. And honestly, it was not his fault for giving me the bad news. It was his job no matter how wrong I felt he was looking at the wrong chart. Talk about denial.
I am thankful for the 28 years I have experienced, okay, maybe not the bad times, but definitely the good. My life has been touched by so many over the years, because of cancer. And my life has touch others as well. I have met hundreds of other cancer patients and survivors over these 28 years. And we are all there for each other. Just like the Geico commercial says… “if you want to save 15% on your car insurance, you go to Geico, it’s what you do,” just like for us cancer survivors, it is what we do.
I am thankful for the acts of discrimination that I faced. First, being discriminated against for employment lit a huge fire under my behind, to never let anyone tell me that I could not do anything just because I had cancer. Second, being discriminated against for health and life insurance, because of being too much of a risk. Well guess what losers!!!! You saved me 28 years worth of investment in your loser companies because I am still here! And you did not get my money all this time.
I am thankful that after nearly three decades, I have seen so much progress in treating Hodgkin’s that my treatments are no longer used except as a last resort, reducing the risks of developing late effects like myself and so many others have to deal with. And also, though progress is slow, at least patients are now being followed more closely during and after treatment, but there is still too much that needs to be done. But there has definitely been progress since 1988.
I am thankful that I got the chance to be a father to two of the most beautiful and thoughtful daughters a man could ever have call him “Daddy.”
And 28 years later, I am thankful to each and every one of you in my life. Whether you were in my life before I was diagnosed, there when I was diagnosed, or even just joined me last week. You are all a part of this big puzzle I call my life.
Though I struggle with my emotions at this time of year, I never, NEVER take for granted what my survivorship has meant to my family, my friends, or myself. But if it is alright with you, I would just prefer to be thankful. I do not need a holiday to remind me of that.