Yesterday was my third anniversary of being diagnosed with FNHL. I spent the day as I have most of them these three years – doing what I can to keep that diagnosis from negatively affecting my life. Passed a quiet morning at home doing a little client work, did a Taskrabbit run into San Francisco in the afternoon that involved a bit more physical exertion than they usually do, and after it got dark took my customary Rose Garden/Lake Merritt walk. Didn’t even take a nap all day; seems I need those less frequently than a year ago.
The night was wet and windy and I didn’t want to leave the house to walk but made myself anyway. Lately I’ve been neglecting exercise as I often do during the winter so at last month’s checkup the oncologist instructed me to get back on it and walk five times a week for 30 minutes. Marching orders, ha ha. Not that I really mind: if I were to make a habit of every day listing three or more things for which I’m grateful, most days the first one would be simply still getting places on foot without appreciable hardship. Having cancer, especially seeing what it does to other people’s bodies, has greatly sharpened my appreciation of basic mobility skills.
(I do sporadically keep such a list in 21-day stretches. I’d thought I might start a new one yesterday but got sidetracked so maybe tomorrow. 3 causes for gratitude daily for three weeks beginning on 3/3? It’s the magic number.)
Similarly it’s sharpened my appreciation for my lifestyle, specifically that at least to the outside eye I’m able to maintain it in close to pre-cancer fashion. Living alone, driving at will (a manual transmission no less), sleeping in a loft, taking the bus, working in a shared office: such things help maintain my effort to keep from being negatively affected.
Ditto the brevity and almost immediate effectiveness of my treatment in 2015. A few weeks ago I witnessed two friends swapping horror stories from their own cancer treatments, surgical procedures and prolonged debilitation and nearly-extinguished hope, and was struck once again by how lightly I’ve gotten off.
Some have said within my hearing that if you’re going to get cancer at all, you want to get something like non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Perhaps that’s what the oncologist meant by pronouncing it “highly treatable.” If so then I’m a lucky guy. For these three years I’ve worked to sharpen appreciation of that too.
Yet what do you say to those who aren’t so lucky? Leaving the clinic after the checkup I passed two men slowly making their way inside. I recognized one as the gentleman I shared a room with during my next-to-last Rituxan infusion, the other his partner. I said nothing: no reason they should remember me from so long ago, and I was bursting with my own fortune of a quick uncomplicated exam. The thought however did occur to me that however long and fraught the time since has felt to me it could have only been more so to them. The one in treatment didn’t look better than when I met him that day in May. Worse, sorry to say. That, also sorry to say, is true of a lot of those I recognize while waiting in the clinic lobby.
Yet ultimately I am not responsible for them, only myself. And so far as I understand it, my responsibility to myself is to proceed with life as little hampered by cancer as circumstance permits. It has in many unexpected ways been a very good three years; here’s to a fourth.
(Photo: above the Rose Garden last night.)
(Republished from my personal Facebook account)