Sunday, December 02, 2007

December 2, 2007 - Alive Day

“A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch shall grow out of his roots.”

– Isaiah 11:1

Today’s a significant anniversary for me. Two years ago today, I was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma.

I had known for several months beforehand that lymphoma was a possibility. December 2, 2005 was the day when Claire and I sat in Dr. Lerner’s office and heard him confirm that my biopsy results indicated a malignancy, and that I would have to start chemotherapy within a few weeks.

It was a day that changed my life.

Since then, I’ve undergone port-implantation surgery, received chemotherapy, lost my hair and regained it, gone into remission, gone out of remission, and – more recently – pondered the meaning of the word “stable” (which describes the result of my latest CT scan). I’ve acquired a thorough layperson’s knowledge in the biology of cancer. I’ve learned things about the medical-insurance business I never wanted to know. I’ve participated in support groups, seminars, teleconferences and fund-raisers. I’ve been a guest speaker at a drug company’s national sales meeting. I’ve learned to give help, and receive it. I’ve tested the foundations of my faith, and found it firm enough to support me through tough times. I’ve come to appreciate church and family in new ways.

In short, I’ve learned to survive.

I understand that soldiers who go to places like Iraq or Afghanistan, and return home seriously wounded, often speak of their “Alive Day.” It’s not so much the day they were wounded, as the day they looked around and realized they were still alive, and were going to make it after all.

No soldiers celebrate their wounds, but some do celebrate the anniversary of their Alive Day. It was a day when, as perhaps never before in their young lives, did they feel so grateful to be alive.

Maybe my diagnosis day is my Alive Day. I wouldn’t pretend that what I’ve gone through, as a cancer patient, is at all similar to the dreadful suffering of some of these brave men and women who have returned home minus limbs, or with head wounds that have robbed them of normal cognitive abilities. Yet it is a turning-point, all the same: a great divide between life-as-it-once was and life-as-it-is-coming-to-be.

As I enter my third year as a cancer survivor, what’s ahead? Only God knows.

“My times are in your hand;
deliver me from the hand of my enemies and persecutors.

Blessed be the Lord,
for he has wondrously shown his steadfast love to me
when I was beset as a city under siege.
I had said in my alarm,
‘I am driven far from your sight.’
But you heard my supplications
when I cried out to you for help.”

– Psalm 31:15, 21-22

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