Dubious anniversaries

December 22, 2009 

Whenever I've looked at a calendar for the past six weeks or so, I have thought back to what was happening to me a year ago:

-- On Nov. 12, 2008, I was diagnosed with lymphoma (stage four, as it turned out).

-- On Dec. 11, I went in for surgery to have a mediport installed in my chest.

-- On Dec. 12, I went to Columbia Basin Hematology & Oncology for my first chemotherapy treatment, which turned out to pretty much be the worst day of my first 44 years.

-- On Dec. 15, the grapefruit-sized growth at the base of my neck melted away, giving me the first sign of hope after six tumultuous weeks that had created nothing short of complete chaos in my life.

I've mentally noted all of these dates and mentioned them to family or friends if they were within the context of conversation.

This week, however, has really stuck in my mind. During the week of Christmas a year ago, I wasn't exactly sure what would happen to me. The first chemo treatment had worked so well, I had no white blood cells left in my body, and that left me completely vulnerable to every sneeze from others. I spent Dec. 23-26 wearing a surgical mask - the only defense I had until daily Neupogen shots kicked in and caused my bone marrow to generate new white blood cells.

The fact was this: I could barely leave the house, as I could not afford to come in contact with someone who was sick, which could put me in the hospital pretty quickly. Thus, Christmas shopping was nearly impossible (though my next-door neighbor helped out tremendously by running around town picking up a few presents).

This was setting up to be the worst Christmas ever. No Christmas Eve services, no Living Nativity with my 4-year-old and no seeing friends. Frankly, the effects of that first chemo had me pretty worn down, too.

The saving grace was that my brother flew out from the Midwest and drove my mother over from the west side. It was the first time we'd all been together for the holidays in a few years, and my brother got to spend some great quality time with his niece.

This Christmas, by contrast, is rather joyous. No chemotherapy, no surgical masks, no worries about pneumonia, no daily shots - and no cancer.

I guess all of these dubious anniversaries are not only a reminder of where I was not so long ago, but also how far I've come and the bright future I have to look forward to.

And for these reasons, I can sincerely say this:

Merry Christmas.

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