Thursday, December 02, 2010

December 2, 2010 – 5-Year Cancerversary

Hard to believe it’s been five years already, but it has. Five years ago today, I was diagnosed with cancer.

So much has happened since then. Those early days of uncertainty and fear, knowing that life would never be the same again. Telling the kids. Telling the church. Arranging for time off, to coincide with the predictable valleys in the chemo cycle. Persistent thoughts of dying, even though Drs. Lerner and Portlock and everyone else in the know kept assuring me I have one of those so-called "good" cancers - one that usually responds to treatment.

Once the treatment train had left the station, it picked up speed incredibly fast – or so it seemed. One day, I was given the news. The next, I was being wheeled into an operating room to get my port implanted.

My story didn’t unfold quite that fast, of course. That was just the way it felt to me. There was actually about a month between diagnosis and my first dose of chemo. I can’t recall much of what I did during that time. Once cancer enters your life, it’s hard to think of anything else. I felt numb.

Used to be, patients who reached their five year cancerversary without recurrence were considered cured. I still run into people who think that’s the case. In reality, cancer is such a multifaceted phenomenon that it’s impossible to generalize.

In my case, remission only lasted eight months – although, in truth, the cancer was probably there all along, lurking below the radar of those high-tech scans. “Watch and wait” was Dr. Lerner’s recommendation, confirmed by Dr. Portlock. Just sit tight. No need to shoot any arrows from the quiver until we absolutely have to. You have no symptoms. So, just sit tight. Trust us. This really is a sensible approach, even though it sounds like lunacy.

So, here I am today. Still watching and waiting. I’ve no idea how long it will be before the burgeoning population of cancer cells will reach umpteen million (or whatever the magic number is) and we’ll be discussing which treatment to try next.

Already, there are NHL treatments out there that weren’t available at the time I was diagnosed. Most aren’t quite ready for prime time, but it won’t be long now. Chances are, by the time we’ll be thinking seriously about treatment again, there will be some options available that weren’t even conceived at the time I was first setting out, five years ago.

There’s reason for hope, to be sure. Lord willing and the blood counts don’t rise, I’ll be here to observe quite a number of cancerversaries yet to come.


Anonymous said...


We hope you have many more years of good health ahead of you. It's been a long road for you and your family. Charlene/Harvey

Zam Walker said...

Congratulations Carl! My 8th cancerversary comes on the 12th Dec for biopsy, when they told me they thought it was cancer, or 16th for confirmation of diagnosis. Having had breast cancer I know, despite media reports of celebs, that I will never be given the all clear, but as I found in my research for my Masters dissertation when I quoted your blog (did I ever send you a copy?), choosing the positive is all important.
Enjoy life!
Zam Walker
Greenock, Scotland

Anonymous said...

Wishing you many many more.