Last January, I celebrated my 10-year “diagnosiversary.” I received a diagnosis of follicular lymphoma, a slow-growing, but incurable blood cancer on Jan. 15, 2008.
My diagnosiversary is always a celebration. This year’s milestone is special to me because at the time of my diagnosis, I read that the median survival of this disease was eight to 10 years. As a 40-year-old father of three children (then ages 6, 8, and 10), I cried at the thought that I probably wouldn’t see them graduate from college. The more I thought about it, the worse I imagined things would be.
“Please, God, just give me 10 years,” I prayed one night. “They’ll be 16, 18, and 20 — maybe old enough not to need a father.”
What I have learned
I have learned a lot since then about follicular lymphoma, and about being a patient.
For example, I learned that although eight to 10 years was the median overall survival rate back then, it was also an old statistic. It was so old that it didn’t include the effects of the treatment rituximab that changed the game for all FL patients.
A lymphoma specialist told me, “Lots of what you read online about follicular lymphoma is already out of date.”
I also learned that most people who get FL are in their 60s. Statistics for people diagnosed in their 40s are very different.
And I learned that many FL patients not only have a high quality of life but also that they live for a long time.
I learned a lot by reading, talking to other patients, and asking my doctor lots of questions. And the more I learned, the more hopeful I became.
Living with hope
And that’s what I want to do with this column — share the things that have given me hope over the past 10 years.
It’s easy to feel hopeless as a cancer patient. We feel hopeless at lots of different times — after we are diagnosed, during and after treatment, when we are told that we need treatment again. Or when someone says the wrong thing to us. Or just when we’ve had a bad day.
I’ve certainly had those times myself.
But I’ve also come across lots of things that have given me hope — that feeling that everything is going to be OK, even when I don’t know it for sure.
When my 10-year diagnosiversary came around, I took a little time to reflect. I thought about how my life had changed over 10 years. About the things for which I was thankful. The things I still worried about. And most importantly, things that had given me hope. I decided to make a list of 10 of those hopeful things — one for every year of survival.
My list went past 10.
In this column, I will share those hopeful things with you. I want them to give you the opportunity to do a little reflection of your own. I want them to spark a change in the way you do things.
Mostly I want them to give you hope.
Note: Lymphoma News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Lymphoma News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to lymphoma.