In November of 2005, I discovered two sore, achy lumps under my left arm. The doctor saw me within a day, told me he didn’t like the look of the lumps, and asked that I arrange for a biopsy. My first “uh-oh” moment came when my doctor informed me that he had already called the surgeon and that he was waiting across the street to see me.

The surgeon saw me immediately and agreed that a biopsy was appropriate. He was heading out of town, but thought he’d better squeeze me in before he left, another “uh-oh” moment. I had the biopsy three days later—the nodes seemed normal. Wow, what a relief!

If your physician has bad news, they want to tell you in person. My doctor asked if I could come by his office to talk. Since I could not get back downtown that day, he asked if he could call me at home later in the evening. That evening, I took the phone and headed out onto the deck for privacy. He told me that there was a 30% chance that I had mono, and a 70% chance that I had cancer. My life changed.

A few days later, on Friday, a day the oncologist usually did not see patients (uh-oh), my wife and I met the oncologist.  As we waited in the very busy reception room, I actually said to my wife that I was still hoping for mono. She looked at me with patience and amazement and said, “We are waiting to see an oncologist, it is not mono.” That meeting was a complete blur.

The initial treatment consisted of six rounds of chemo, one round every 21 days. For five days after the chemo day, I took anti-nausea medication and a steroid pills. For those five days I barely slept.

My hair fell out on Saturday December 11th, just about 14 days after my first round of chemo and on the day of my then 8 year old son’s birthday party. My wife had arranged with Debbie, the woman who cuts her and the kid’s hair, to shave my head when the time came. At about 5:00 on a Saturday night when she was supposed to be at a Christmas party, Debbie stayed home late to shave my head. This was one of many acts of kindness and generosity that I remember so fondly and cherish.

Savor what is good. In 2005, it was a friend shaving my head. Now, it’s having completed six triathlons and one half-ironman with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) team. Accept the support you are given. My wife, family, friends, and later the LLS team were there for me during multiple rounds of chemo, a cell transplant, and a donor lymphocyte infusion.

Every “uh-oh” moment is eased by your support system. Thank you to mine throughout this journey.

           

Visit Community Health Charities’ health resources to find more support for cancer and other long-term health conditions.

Bill previously served on Community Health Charities’ national board. Read more about his diagnosis story and journey at his personal blog, Living Lumpy