Surviving Small Lymphocytic Lymphoma with PMA


I am so happy that I was able to celebrate my wedding anniversary with my biggest supporter.

cartoon drawing of cancer survivor and blogger, Linda Cohen

When I was 57 years old, I received a diagnosis of small lymphocytic lymphoma. I was told it was an indolent cancer, but I was also told there is no cure. As my friends heard this news, recommendations for oncologists were coming at me. I made appointments with a few, but I was also told to be sure to get on the radar of a lymphoma specialist at the University of Michigan Hospital, “in case you need to get in one of his trials” in the future. After meeting with this doctor, he clearly told me, if you can survive ten years, there will be many new treatments available. I first focused on, “if you can survive…” and then I tried to take in the rest of his sentence.

An acquaintance of mine heard that I had the same diagnosis and he told me, “the first thing you must do is to have PMA.” I looked at him and said, “what in the world is that?” He said you must have a “POSITIVE MENTAL ATTITUDE.” He explained to me that in his opinion, it was crucial and without it, surviving may be more difficult. That day, I vowed to focus on all that was going well. I had to do whatever treatments I needed to help ensure that I did my part to hopefully live at least another decade. 

Fast forward 14 years…I recently celebrated my 50th wedding anniversary. To honor this anniversary, we decided to renew our vows. It was one of the most beautiful days of my life. We had a rabbi and cantor officiate. Our immediate family and very close friends were there to share this intimate day with us. We decided to write new vows for each other, which required a lot of reflection. Fourteen years ago, I had no idea if we would ever have the opportunity to celebrate this golden anniversary. My husband has been right by my side, supporting me through the different treatments I have needed from infusions to radiation, and now he administers antibody infusions that I will need every four weeks for the rest of my life.

Perhaps making it to this day was even more special because we didn’t know if we would. None of us really know how long we have, but when you’re living with incurable cancer, you take it to heart even more. The most special part of this day was having my grandchildren participate, walking down in front of us with bouquets in hand for my eight-year-old twins, and baskets of flower pedals thrown by our two little ones before we entered. The rabbi spoke about the life we built together, and the cantor sang meaningful songs, including a blessing saying how grateful we are to God for reaching this moment in time. But the piece of resistance was when our daughters and sons-in-law expressed that they wanted to share vows with us that they have learned as they watched us go through the ups and downs of life together. We were astonished at all they said…all that they paid attention to along the way. Even our 8-year-old twins added what they will continue to do what they have learned from us. 

At first, we weren’t planning to do anything like this for our 50th anniversary. I didn’t want to make a big deal about it, but you know what? It was a big deal to reach this moment in time and not everyone is lucky enough to reach this milestone. It allowed me to truly reflect on how lucky I am to have a husband who loves and supports me every step of the way. Renewing our vows when you have cancer made it that much more meaningful.

You might even want to ask your loved ones, whoever they might be, if they were inspired to continue something they learned from you! It was incredibly meaningful. I say, why wait until your 50th anniversary? I recommend celebrating whenever it feels right for you!

For more news on cancer updates, research and education, don’t forget to subscribe to CURE®’s newsletters here.