Today is September 1, 2015, and I have been cancer free from Hodgkins Lymphoma for 5 years. I have thought about this day over and over. I have both longed for it, and feared it. In the past two years I often dreamed of various exciting ways to celebrate the day.
I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in January 2009. I relapsed only a few months after the initial treatment, and on the first day of September 2010, I received a stem cell transplant. If you are interested in clicking way back through the old posts on this site, you can read the whole day by day story. Or, if you are here because you or someone you care about is considering a transplant for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, here is a video of my actual transplant as it happened.
Why is the 5 year mark so important? Thank you for asking, that is an excellent question. It will help to explore a brief bit of medical history. Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is an old cancer, meaning, doctors have known what it is, and how to recognize it for over 100 years. It used to be fatal, as were most cancers. But the development of the ABVD chemotherapy regimen improved the odds, and many studies have shown that approximately 80-85% of newly diagnosed Hodgkins Lymphoma cases, survive at least 5 years from the date of diagnosis. However, long term studies show that approximately 30% of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma patients will not respond properly to that treatment. These are cases are called relapse and refractory cases and the odds of long term survival are lower for these people. I was in the refractory group.
For those of us in that group of relapse and refractory Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a secondary or salvage treatment involving high dose chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant is usually on the menu. Of this group of patients who are essentially on plan B, after failing plan A, the probability of success is less than 50%. And for those who relapse within 1-3 years of the transplant, the prognosis is not good. However, these same studies show that the patients who do not relapse, and achieve 5 years of survival without progression of the disease, very often go on to live normal Lymphoma free lives. It is difficult to put percentages on survivability at this point, but the basic fact
is that reaching 5 years of survival is a really positive indicator that a person will continue to be free of the disease indefinitely.
So, the day has come! I received my transplant 5 years ago today, and I am still here. I have had no return of the disease, and I feel great. So today I am thankful for the chance to keep going. I appreciate the good people in my life and I respect that happiness comes from within. There is no amount of money, cars, clothes, prestige, status or pixel resolution that can bring long term happiness. Those things can help, but they are only band aids. The real happiness, or healing of a wound comes from inside and being content with who you are.
I have not made any particular plans to celebrate. I have come to the conclusion that just living my life is enough of a celebration. Although I did receive some beautiful hand made cards and letters of encouragement from the kids, and Amy planned a very nice dinner this past weekend with a friend of mine who was there 5 years ago to witness all my misery.