From Where I Sit

I am in a pretty good place; physically, mentally, emotionally, however you would like to measure “good place”, I think I am there. My health is now excellent, but my diagnosis left me with a keen awareness of and an appreciation for a lot of things that I may have missed prior to February 24th, 2006. I was reminded of a lot of things last week when I attended a Cancer Survivors Celebration Day which was held at the local hospital where I had been treated. It is an annual celebration with several speakers including docs, survivors, and even a comedian. (Last year I was even one of the honored survivor speakers.) The odd thing is that the evening started with an informal meet and greet in which tables with refreshments lined the entire chemotherapy and radiation treatment and waiting areas.

Now, you have to try to understand the feeling one gets walking into a chemo treatment center. I always tried to keep things as light as possible. I loved my nurses and when I went through treatment (which, if I did the math right, was 40 sessions over a two year period) I sort of felt as if it was my job to walk in there with as much energy and excitement that I could find. Part of it was done in fun just to drive the nurses a little crazy, and part of it was just my way of dealing. I remember one particular session where I arrived for my treatment before they had opened the doors for the day. This was never unusual for me as I need to be early for everything. But I was so amped up that morning that the reception opened the blind covering their window, and quickly closed it saying to the staff, “Steve’s here already, who wants him”? And then we all had a laugh once they let me in. Sometimes my energy at 8 a.m. was a little over the top for those just starting their long work day.

So, getting back to my very long winded point … remember … that Cancers Survivors Celebration Day? Yes, so the refreshments lined the treatment and waiting areas. And I was getting such a strange feeling trying to reconcile where we were. Initially I found myself thinking, “Can’t we find a better place to do this?… Do we have to be so close to the rooms and chairs where the poison is administered to so many people in an effort to kill their respective cancers”?

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it was the perfect place to kick off the evening’s program. Survivors and their families got the chance to mingle and celebrate in the very area where they had all waged war – and won. It was our own little version of Iwo Jima. We were all Marines and were taking pride in raising our survivor flag in the soil of the treatment center.

The rest of the evening proved to be quite moving and inspiring as well. It is encouraging to see how far cancer remission and cure rates have come over the last few decades. We are winning the war on cancer. There are still many battles yet to come, but we have so many of these things on the run. The work we are doing is working … all of the donations, and grants, and dedication, and research – this work all saves lives. Don’t ever think for a minute that this stuff isn’t making a difference. It is.

And from where I sit, that’s a good thing.

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