“Living my life with Lymphoma”
I went to a blood cancer support group for the first time last night. Each person told their story and shared their diagnosis, their struggles, fears, hopes, and support for each other. They told of times when they thought they were going to die, and of times they were told that there was nothing else that could be done for them. They talked about research, new drugs, scans, and stem cell transplants. They mentioned side effects from treatments, and the need for maintenance therapy. They acknowledged that they were now living a “new normal” which might be something that all cancer patients come to realize. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but I left the meeting feeling both sad and hopeful.
Barbara, the leader of the group, is an oncology nurse who has been bravely practicing in this arena for forty years. She calmed the fears of one man who was offered a drug trial and declined because he had read that survival after taking this medication was on average of 20 months. His fear wasn’t really rational because without it, his life expectancy may be a lot less, but Barbara explained that the people whom this study was done on have likely used up all of their options and have had multiple complications by this time on their journey. Phillip was just diagnosed 3 years ago with multiple myeloma , has no visible signs of illness, and has been responding positively to his current treatments.
There’s a member who has leukemia who had a stem cell transplant a few years ago. She’s struggling with issues related to rejection while trying to participate in routine activities like working. She joined the group a few years ago in a very angry state of mind, but has found ways to cope with her situation that has offered her more quality of life.
A few members have lymphoma. I listened carefully for any commonalities but found that each story was as varied as the people and their diagnoses. I was happy to see that people seem to be living their lives despite their circumstances, but I couldn’t help but wonder who wasn’t there. Were they people who were comfortable with their situation and didn’t need this kind of support? Did they achieve a cure or a remission and no longer have a need for a support group? Were support groups not their thing? Or did they not survive?
One thing I had in common with another member is that neither of us wants to think too far ahead or ask too many questions before there’s a need to know the answers. I have two treatments to go and will learn of the results soon enough. I’m going to concentrate on getting through these and managing the side effects.
Meanwhile, I’ll try to recognize each day as an opportunity to do good, see good, and foster hope.
It happens to be my “new normal”.