Thanksgiving has always been difficult for me for the last 30 years, because it always reminds me of my diagnosis of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. But Thanksgiving also reminds me, it is when I beat Hodgkin’s 30 years ago. I know it is confusing, because my countdown calendar still has a few months to go. Depending who you ask, we will refer to either actual remission date (the date we are told we are in remission), or as in my case, when that last IV comes out of my arm, when I am actually done with treatments. And there is a reasons why I do this, which I will get to shortly. But first, the phone call…
I had already completed three cycles (the same as months) of a very toxic chemotherapy cocktail, MOPP-ABV, that had huge success with treating Hodgkin’s. I was now nearly completely bald. I had gained nearly twenty pounds. That is right, I gained weight during chemo because of taking prednisone to deal with the other toxicities. It made hungry a lot, and well, a cancer patient is told to eat well, and I did.
I was sitting at my desk at work, just shortly before 3:00pm, when an operator at the company told me I had a phone call.
Nurse: Mr. Edelman, it’s Brenda at Dr. M’s office. I am just calling to let you know we have the latest scan results which show that your cancer is gone. You are in remission.
I really do not remember the immediate minutes after that. Time had stopped for me at that point. I had done it. My cancer was gone.
Yes, that occurred 30 years ago. But here is why I do not recognize that as my actual anniversary.
I was expected to go through 6 cycles (months) of MOPP-ABV. That was the standard protocol at the time. If you have ever taken an antibiotic, you know that you are supposed to take the entire amount prescribed. Because the medicine continues to work after it is finished. Otherwise, if you stop taking it just because you feel better, it comes back, often with a vengeance. I did not want this coming back.
And at this point, I had gotten through half way my treatment regimen. Sort of. The plan was to get through 6 cycles, then, as preventative, either an additional two treatments, or another series of radiation treatments. And at that point, I had tolerated chemo fairly well, whereas I definitely did not enjoy the burning from the radiation. So it was clear in my head, I was going to go through eight cycles of MOPP-ABV.
I was going to do whatever I had to, to make sure that my cancer was not only gone, but stayed gone. This was the plan to offer me the best chance at success.
And that is why, even though I was in remission in November, my counter still has me waiting to celebrate until March.