Those of you who have browsed my posts over the past year have seen ocassional mention of my chemotherapy treatments. I will give you the story and then ask a couple questions of the group. (Most of you are younger than this ole' Bear and your experience with this sort of thing is/was probably with your parents or grandparents.)
I was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma back in mid-1996. The same type of cancer that hockey great Mario Lemuix (sic?) was hit with. During that autumn I went through radiation therapy, every day, for four (4) months. Lost a bunch of weight, because I couldn't swallow (usually necessary part of regular eating).
In check-ups and tests and scans over the course of six (6) years I was pronounced (after five years) "cured".
In February of 2003 I started having fevers and severe night sweats. The trusty internet search led me to "menopause". Heh, heh.....not quite for this guy. That same Google search answered "Hodgkin's symptom". Numerous tests followed and, lo and behold......the evil Mr. Hodgkin's had returned. So, I was placed on the normal chemotheraphy regimen for Hodgkin's....ABDV (each letter signifying a different drug that they would pump into me).
I began chemo in July, 2003, and continued until mid-February, 2004. I lost some weight, gained it back when my doc scolded me for that. I lost all my hair....yes, ALL my hair. (I had been a bearded dude since 1969 !!!). My gosh, I looked like a dork.....ahhh, but with my bald beanie the youngen's checked me out.
In March and April I had the normal tests and scans.....PET Scan (very-sophisticated imaging process), CAT Scan, bone marrow biopsy, and a biopsy of a suspected lymph node. ABVD chemo works for Hodgkin's about 99% of the time. Can I win the lotto? No. Can I win a 50/50 drawing at a club? No. Can I fit into that 1% who don't get cured with normal ABVD? Yes.
Next step.....returning in mid-May to the University of Michigan Cancer Center (one of the best in the world). I will be indoctrinated with information on what is called high-dose chemotherapy, with a bone marrow stem cell transplant. Not fun.
They will inject me with a stem-cell growth-enhancing drug, wait awhile, then harvest stem cells and freeze them. Then, they give me 24-hour-a-day chemo for a few days.....high-dose. It kills everything in the bone marrow. After the chemo drugs have been pushed through me, they reinject the stem cells. I will be in the hospital for 2-4 weeks and off work for another 4 months. (I have never spent a day in the hospital, except age 5, couple days for tonsils being ripped out.)
Sidebar Note: In 1996 my wife was diagnosed with MS. Except for a couple flare-ups it has stayed inactive.
So.....everytime my wife and I start talking about "woe is us"...."bad luck".....we remind each other about REALITY CHECKS.
During a couple consultation visits at U of M's Cancer Center we sat in the waiting room waiting to be called. The room was filled with very young children, most without hair (because of chemo treatments), some too weak to get out of a wheelchair, some with chemical tubes hooked to them. Seeing these young cancer victims is emotionally draining. You just want to hug them and transfer what ever is left of your life into their bodies, so they can live longer. This is a real REALITY CHECK. My problems seem so small compared to them.
My two (2) questions:
Have any of you had experiences with life-threatening illnesses?
Have any of you ever experienced REALITY CHECKS that seem to make your problems seem insignificant.