Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Does It Really Make A Difference “How” or “Why”?

Surely it has happened to you at some point in your life.  You spill a drink, and not just any drink, but one that will leave a huge and permanent stain, and definitely only get worse the longer it sits.

There are all kinds of hacks to clean up a spill that will cause a stain.  But they all rely on how quickly you respond.  If done immediately and correctly, perhaps there can be nothing noticeable remaining.  As the liquid sits, the stain will become more difficult to deal with.  And of course, to do nothing, well, say goodbye to the carpet then.

This is not just a metaphor.  This is a life saver.

Do you stand there and wonder how it happened?  Why it happened?  What you could have done differently so that the drink would not have spilled in the first place?  Does it really make a difference once it has occurred?

I was 22 years old when I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.  To my knowledge, I am the only person in my family history to develop this type of cancer.  I had five other family members who had battled a different form of cancer, all have passed away.

I am on several social media pages for cancer as well as life after cancer.  Usually two or three times a year, a discussion comes up wondering about the cause of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.  While we know there are hereditary possibilities with certain cancers such as breast cancer, dietary influences when it comes to colon cancer, and of course smoking linked to lung cancer, there are no confirmed actual causes of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

There are similarities however, amongst many of us, in regard to our health histories that should not be ignored.

Please read this next sentence carefully, very carefully.  Most of us who have had Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at one time or another, dealt with the Epstein Barr virus.  THIS IS IMPORTANT!!!  This does not mean that everyone who gets EBV will get Hodgkin’s.  Like the lesson taught in school, “all mammals are animals, but not all animals are mammals,” the same applies here.  I have never been tested for the Epstein Barr virus, and with my Hodgkin’s having occurred almost 30 years ago, if I got the test done, I am pretty sure I would test positive for having had it.

But the EBV does often lead to another illness, mononucleosis, “mono.”  And again, though just as prominent among Hodgkin’s patients and survivors, many of us have had mono, though not as numerous as just having EBV.  Now the same rule applies as with the EBV, not everyone who gets mono will develop Hodgkin’s.  And considering how prevalent a diagnosis of mono can be, Hodgkin’s is considered rare with an average 50,000 diagnosis each year.  So, sadly, at best, EBV and mono appear, or are at least looked at as just coincidences.  Just as a matter of fact, I was diagnosed with mono at the age of 18, four years before I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s.

Agent orange is a mixture of an herbicide and chemicals, most popularly used during the Vietnam War, having exposed so many to its toxicity.  And for several long term survivors of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, another similarity, from exposure.

Then there are also conversations about “clusters” or “hot spots”, locations with higher incidents of diagnosis of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.  In my early days of survivorship, I had first learned of this situation, concerning areas of Ohio.  I have since learned of other areas, from Los Angeles to Ohio to New York to Norway.  Again, there seems to be a causality due to exposure to chemicals such as Benzene.  There are many of us who lived near Three Mile Island (though I know some who lived closer to TMI than I did when the crisis occurred back in the 1970’s) so radiation is yet another coincidence.  I had even seen reports narrowing down a cluster to a particular high school.  But in the end, these are all just treated either as numbers, or coincidences.

Ultimately, if I really wanted to pinpoint anything, especially with Hodgkin’s being a cancer of the immune system, I would point a finger at stress, not necessarily as a cause, but definitely a trigger.  Like many other things I have had to deal with medically, my events were all preceded by higher amounts of stress than normal.  And what effect does stress have on the body?  It lowers the immune system’s ability to respond and defend.  At the time of my diagnosis, I could not have been under more stress – a challenge I would well exceed fifteen years later.  But again, I want to stress, no pun intended, stress does not mean you will end up with Hodgkin’s.

In the meantime, for those of us in this world of Hodgkin’s, are you letting that “stain in the carpet” sit longer, or have you just taken care of it and have moved on?  To obsess about the “how” or “why”, especially in the beginning of the Hodgkin’s journey can cost valuable time in regard to treatment.  And as most of us HD survivors will tell you, time is critical in treating Hodgkin’s.  And to obsess about the “how” or “why” in survivorship, will only mean that we are not paying attention to the things around us that should matter more.  Sure, it would be nice for closure, to have the “a-ha” moment that we could tie our Hodgkin’s to.  But in reality, I do not see this in my lifetime, which I am hoping for another 30-40 years.

 

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