I had never really known how much something as simple as a phone call could change one’s life. In the early morning hours of September 29th, 2005, I picked up the phone and got news that no one should ever have to hear. My wife and I huddled around the speakerphone to listen to my doctor tell me the results of my biopsy were in. The growth I had felt on my right clavicle, was in fact, a malignant lymphoma. Mindy and I had been bargaining our fears away for a week leading up to the results. We thought it was an abscess, a fatty deposit or Cat Scratch Disease. When the doctor told us that instead I had Hodgkin’s Disease, my world quite literally crumbled all around me.
“Then the rainstorm came, over me and I felt my spirit break. I had lost all of my, belief you see and realized my mistake.”
Tears came as we spoke to the doctor as he recommended I meet my new oncologist as soon as possible. The call to my mother that morning to inform her was one of the worst things I’ve ever done. Her only son had developed cancer, and I could feel the pain in her voice as we spoke. Fighting back sobs, mom, dad and Mindy all comforted me, and I did my best to assure them that I would fight this thing. I would make it through with their help. The more I learned about Hodgkin’s, and the support system I had in place to help me beat the disease, the more my fears turned to hope and resolve.
“But time threw a prayer, to me and all around me became still.”
Everywhere I turned, from the gang at work, to prayers offered up in my name by those in my home town of Laconia, N.H., to the supportive and loving words of Mindy’s family, I knew I wasn’t alone in this fight. Mindy’s mom, Ann, had battled against a far worse form of ovarian cancer and won. My own mother had won her fight against breast cancer, as had my Aunt Lucile. I was turning out to be just the latest member of our family to come up against this disease and damned if I was going to be the one to kick it in. Any lingering fears and doubts vanished after I met my oncologist. From the moment I met Dr. Kahn, I knew I was blessed. She explained to Min and I what Hodgkin’s was, how she was going to treat me, and what I could expect from chemo and radiation. From my PET and CT scans, Kahn was able to diagnose me with stage 2A Hodgkin’s. While serious, it was still a highly treatable form of lymphoma. When she told me that she was going to “cure me” of the cancer, I could hardly believe it. Over the course of the next year, I learned Dr. Kahn was a woman of her word.
“Through the rainstorm came sanctuary and I felt my spirit fly. I had found all of my reality. I realized what it takes.”
Mindy and I drew strength from each other, as husbands and wives often do. She made me laugh, helped me take care of myself and led me to her mom & dad. Through their unwavering support and experience I was prepared for what lay ahead. Everyone at the Iconfactory did their part too. As I worked at home on the re-design of the company’s website, they took on my client projects so I could focus on getting better. As chemo progressed, and I watched the tumors melt from my body, the support from those I loved raised me up to a place I had never known before. Friends, family, neighbors and community had all come together for the benefit of me. It was a humbling and remarkable experience that I will never forget, nor be able to fully repay.
“Oh I, don’t bend, don’t break. Show me how to live and promise me you won’t forsake. ‘Cause love can help me know my name.”
I have been free of cancer now for two years. As I head for my semi-annual PET and CT scans this Thursday, I am proud to be counted as just one of the millions of people who have fought and survived their battle with cancer. I beat Hodgkin’s thanks to the love of my friends and family, the remarkable staff at the Wesley Long Cancer Center and good old fashion faith. Initially, I had never wanted to be defined by my illness. I resisted telling casual acquaintances about it for a long time. I knew that someday I would be able to help others through what had happened to me, but I wasn’t sure if that time was now. Today, I write this to tell you I am a loving husband and son, loyal friend, artist, geek, and now proudly, cancer survivor. Let me help.
UPDATE: I received word from my doctor today that my scan results are still negative. A clean bill of health for another six months. Thanks to all those who wrote or tweeted with words of encouragement. It means a great deal to me.