Tell the Fat Lady to Start Warming Up…

Because I am ready to enter the next and FINAL phase of my cancer treatment.  That’s right, I am not due back to the hospital at Emory Winship for any reason at all for the next 10 days, and when I do go back, I will have my bag packed and be checking in for the long 3 week visit to complete my bone marrow transplant.  There is some irony here though.  Exactly one year ago, I was feeling all giddy and excited because on August 26, 2009, I was scheduled to receive my FINAL dose of chemotherapy to treat my Hodgkins Lymphoma.  I got that dose, I celebrated and I prepared to move on with a cancer free life.  The cancer had different plans though, and came stomping back into my life a few months later.  Now, here I am preparing to begin my next FINAL step in beating cancer on none other than August 26, 2010.  Ironic, I know.  A bit of a slap in the face from old Mr. Fate too.

For those of you who have not seen or talked to me recently, I have made huge steps in the past two weeks.  In mid-July, I was still feeling pretty bad.  Lots of fatigue, it was hard to breathe, dizziness, plumbing (gastro-intestinal) problems, and a list of other issues.  Just a few weeks later, my energy is higher, I can walk up stairs without nearly collapsing, I eat anything I want to and don’t have any physical reminders of cancer right now…except for Dominic’s favorite game of telling me, “Daddy, you don’t have any hair!”  So if you are wondering how I am doing, the answer right now and for the next 10 days is, I am feeling great.

So, what is next?  On August 26, I will check in at Emory and have a catheter line placed in my chest.  This is the same concept as an IV, except a little more permanent, and with a thicker line that is capable of handling more volume.  The nurses will use it for drawing blood out for testing, and also for pumping in chemo, medication, stem cells, blood transfusions, extra fluids and possibly liquid nourishment if I cannot eat.

Later in that day I will start a 6 day regimen of high dose chemo that my doctor referred to today as, “…about the strongest stuff we have.”  It is called BEAM.  I am not going to get into what that means now.  Maybe later when I am in the hospital.

A few lines up, I wrote that I don’t have any physical reminders of cancer right now.  That is not entirely true.  I am still a little overprotective of the upper right portion of my chest where I have a port and don’t want to get it squished.  Much of my hair has fallen out, which is really not a problem at all because it makes shower time so much quicker, but it is still startling to see my head this way.  But the physical reminders are not terribly strong.  Now, this does not mean that I don’t think about the cancer.  Now more than ever, I feel a connection to the disease and a responsibility to do something.  I have become more involved in the larger community of young adult cancer survivors and connecting with survivors and their stories both across the country and right here in town has been a remarkably positive experience.

Lance Armstrong’s book, It’s Not About the Bike, opened up many lines of thought for me.  At one point in the story, way back in 1996 when he was also at the tail end of his treatment, his oncologist came to him and talked to him about what he called, “The Obligation of the Cured.”  Lance took the idea seriously and started the Lance Armstrong Foundation which eventually led to the development of the Livestrong movement.  Now, I don’t expect to go out and start a foundation after this, despite my entrepreneurial tendencies!  But, I do know that I have to stay involved with the fight.  Right now, I don’t have a crystal clear idea of what I want to do, but I can see two orbs, lighting the path of direction for me.  One path involves getting social and emotional help directly to the patients.  They have to have hope.  I see so much fear, worry and anxiety among those being treated, and especially in their close family, that I want to do something to help them cope.  I can’t say I want them to know it’s going to be alright, because this disease does not turn out alright for everyone.   Many people fight courageously, and they die anyway.  I will obviously leave the serious disease fighting to the doctors.  But I want to help people feel as positive and fearless as they can during their fight so that their mind stays healthy no matter what.

The second path I can see is spreading awareness among the general public, especially the younger population about what cancer really is and what it means to be in a fight against it.  I think people need to be more aware of what the disease really is.  I feel like many people who have not been through it themselves or been right alongside someone who has dealt with cancer don’t realize what the effects are.  I need to spend some more time thinking about this idea and formulating my thoughts.

To wrap this up, please know that all is good right now and I am really looking forward to getting started with the transplant.  I have been living with this thing over my head and directly intertwined with every part of my life for nearly two years and I am now only 4 weeks away from what could very likely be the end of my cancer!

6 thoughts on “Tell the Fat Lady to Start Warming Up…

  1. cindy slota says:

    Dan you and your family have been in my prayers ever since I heard you were fighting this awful disease. Your outlook is so wonderful and that is part of the treatment also, at least that is what I am told. So the best of luck with the rest of your treatment and I can’t wait to hear that you are cancer free…love you all, Cindy

  2. Megan says:

    I am so happy to hear this- I love your attitude! I will be praying hard on the 26th along with your friends and family I am sure- I know it will be a long 3 weeks for you all – thinking of you all the time – cant wait to see the blog when the cancer is finally gone! Stay positive!! Im sure friends have told you about books you may want to take while in the hospital – but I recently heard of one called “When God and Cancer Meet”- might be an interesting read! Take care of yourself Love – Megan

  3. Elizabeth and Hayes says:

    Your posts are an inspiration and we know your fight will impact the lives of others battling this nasty thing. We are thinking about you and are here for you guys.

  4. Lynn says:

    Dan,

    I’m selfish. I guess we all are. Sometimes I read your blog to stay connected with my own battle through cancer. It humbled me and changed me and your story and way with pros inspires me. You have a way of personalizing this struggle and making it accessible to so many.

    In every action, in every thought, exist the seeds of both joy and suffering. We cancer patients learn this so acutely. May this next battle be your final victory! I hope that soon I will read more about your efforts to keep this dialog open.

    “I want to help people feel as positive and fearless as they can during their fight so that their mind stays healthy no matter what.”

    You know what? You already do.

    Lynn

    • Thank you Lynn. Those were very nice words. Where are you being treated and what cancer do you have?

      You have my promise that in some way, I will remain involved in the cancer fight and will be a positive influence. I promise to keep the dialog going.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *