Thirty-two years ago, I was told I had Hodgkin’s Disease (now called Hodgkin’s Lymphoma so it is not as scary sounding), cancer. I was twenty-two, just turning twenty-three. When it came to any conversation about surviving cancer, it happened with a time frame, five years. Statistics on cancer survivorship were based on a magical five year mark. What happened after that five year mark, we never asked. And if you were a cancer survivor, we just assumed the risk. That is, until the internet came along.
Over the decades, I have met so many survivors of not just Hodgkin’s, but other cancers as well. I have seen the barbaric testing methods now gather dust, and newer and safer treatments being used to treat the cancer I once had. All the while this is happening, another year of survivorship sneaks up on me. And another, and another.
Longevity does not run very high on my father’s side of the family, so adding cancer survivorship, thought for sure that would drive my odds down. Yet, I hit that milestone 50th birthday, and this past March, I recognized my 30th year in remission of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
But my most important blessings, and there are two of them, are the daughters I never thought I would ever have in my life, from beginning to today, to tomorrow. The last decade and a half has been difficult for me with my health, with all kinds of challenges related to side effects from my treatments. But my daughters keep me focused. My shell makes it difficult for anyone to understand what my body is going through, not realize the limits and the conditions that I deal with because you cannot see below the shell, that only doctors, images, and I know are there. That is why I do not try to concentrate too much on numbers. But milestones are kind of hard to ignore.
The inside joke with my daughters, is that I do not admit my age, rather “color it”, referring to a mathematical equation that will total my actual age. But this year, there is a funny reference to this age, “double nickels” referring to two 5’s. This birthday is unavoidable to not recognize the actual age.
I have had a few rough weeks, with the passings of several of very close, fellow survivors, either my age, even younger. No one appreciates or recognizes their mortality, more than I do. But, I am doing all I can, my doctors are doing all they can, my loved ones are doing all they can, to make sure that I continue on, get to see many more birthdays, and more importantly, these milestones…
pay attention trolls, this message is for you…
I will see my daughters graduate from high school. I will see my daughters receive some form of continuing education and have a bright future of their own. If my daughters choose to get married, I will be there to walk them down the aisle. And if I am blessed even further, with grandchildren, like many of my other survivors, I will be there to hold them. And a bonus, though I do not have it set on the calendar on “Paul’s Heart,” I do plan on making 50 years cancer free.
I may not be able to drive 55, but I can admit that I am glad I made it to 55.