Mar 02, 2010 - 10:16 am
I’ve done it. I reached a milestone that I thought impossible upon being told, “You have cancer.” I’ve reached the 20 year mark in remission, without relapse.
While I do realize it is a big deal, to survive cancer this long, as always, I consider it bitter sweet. There are so many that I’ve had to say goodbye to from this disease, and so many more who battle today. Almost two years ago now, I also discovered that my cure has come at a price.
But just as there has been progress in fighting cancer, a relatively new field of medicine is evolving. Medicine is finally recognizing that with longevity, there are fairly good chances that late side effects from those treatments may have an effect later in life. Long ago, cancer patients didn’t live long enough to develop these side effects. Today, there are literally hundreds of thousands of us surviving decades.
Today, discovering that I have late effect issues is difficult, but is also kind of a relief. Because for too long, things just didn’t feel right whether it was fatigue, chest discomfort, back pain, or breathing issues. But for the normal-looking patient, doctors didn’t know what to look for. My late effects are managed, and for the most part, you can’t tell that I am dealing with anything. This is a compliment of the highest degree to the team of medical specialists from all levels that I deal with. Unless you hear it from me, or my shirt is open far enough, you’d never know anything was done to me. One particular thing that I overlooked and only came to realize recently, is how my entire healthy history changed me and my life emotionally twenty years ago. I can finally admit that.
Overall, life is great. I am blessed with a beautiful family. I look forward to hopefully another 20th anniversary milestone for my heart bypass which would also put my cancer survivorship well over 35 years, but at least I’d get to see my girls graduate. There used to be a time, when you wouldn’t be able to count on this. Today, I look forward to it.
This past fall, while continuing to meet new members of my medical team, I was able to locate and visit with two very important people from my past. One was the radiation tech that treated me, and the other was my oncology nurse. It provided me with much needed closure, as I “ran and not walked” out of the doctor’s offices without ever looking back. I owed these to my life, and I had never even thanked them. I’m sure I’m not the only cancer patient who wanted to forget they ever had cancer, but honestly, could they ever really know what happened to the people who’s lives they touched? We exchanged a lot of stories, past and present, but clearly, it was definitely my life coming full circle in this chapter. And then gave the longest hug of my life, and finally said “Thank You.”
Through the good times, and bad, please know that you have been a part of what has gotten me through the last twenty years.
Paul E., 44
But life is good with 2 beautiful daughters adopted from China