How Do I Fit In? Writing About Cancer as a Survivor


I couldn't figure out how to fit in before this post. I read the blogs in the CURE community of contributors and I read the articles on the CURE home page — nothing.

I was invited to contribute to CURE several months ago. I was excited to do it, so I followed all the instructions to sign up. Then I sat on it ... and sat on it ... and sat on it. A CURE editor would remind me here and there that I hadn't posted yet, and I would assure him that I would soon.

I just couldn't come up with anything to write.

I had a good excuse, mind you. I was in the middle of a nine-month battle with neutropenia. My neutrophils, the most abundant cell in the immune system, didn't return after my treatments for lymphoma. I would find myself in the emergency room once or twice a month with a fever or vomiting. Often I was immediately hospitalized.

The real problem, though, is that I couldn't figure out how to fit in. I read the blogs in the CURE community of contributors and I read the articles on the CURE home page.


It dawned on me today that "fitting in" has never been a skill of mine.


So here's my first post.

I'm 54. I was diagnosed with leukemia about two weeks before my 50th birthday and I started chemo three days after my 50th birthday. I had quite an adventure during the six months before I received a stem cell transplant. Three and a half years later, my wife brought me to the hospital barely conscious and throwing up repeatedly. It turned out my intestines were blocked by a lymphoma tumor.

The doctors gave me four chemo treatments (R-EPOCH, for those who understand such things). I was supposed to get six. After the fourth, however, my white blood cells, primarily my neutrophils, didn't rebound. Doctors spent the next nine months making sure I was really in remission from lymphoma and trying to get my neutrophils to come back.

They came back in November. Ironically, they returned on the anniversary of my lymphoma diagnosis.

It's an odd feeling to return to health after a year of sickness. It's amazing how much I can get done when I get up every day, or almost every day, with an almost normal amount of energy and without daily doctor appointments.

My return to life outside the hospital coincided with the holiday season. I've never been one for New Year's resolutions, but for 2016, now that I've had a short break, it's time to decide what to do with the rest of my life.

I think I already know what I'll do ... the same thing I've always done.

Now's the time to tell you one more thing about me. I became a Christian at age 21, and I have never looked back. I read a passage in the Bible once that says, "The Lord wakens me morning by morning to learn like one being taught" (Isaiah 50:4).

I've spent my whole adult life getting up in the morning expecting to be taught and led by the Lord God Almighty. The path has been thrilling. I met and married the perfect companion for such a journey 28 years ago. We've had a business fail, gone bankrupt, had several children and lived "homeless" — at least by the U.S. definition of homeless. We've lived in an amazing Christian community where we learned about people and how to get along with them, and for the last four years we've had cancer as our constant companion.

Above all, we've accumulated stories, not the least of which have happened during the last four years.

I hope to tell you those stories in my future posts.

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