Originally written on 3/29/12.
I came across this great quote on Pinterest and it really struck a nerve with me.
When I was 25, I had Hodgkin’s Disease, a form of lymphoma (or the “Good Hodgkin’s”, as Larry David once said). It has an unusually high cure rate but I was an outlier. My case was particularly bad. The cancer was relentless. My lowest point was when a doctor bluntly told me that I had a 10% chance of survival.
That one statement put me in a funk for about 2 years even after I came through my bone marrow transplant and deemed “cancer-free.” Most cancer patients who come out “cancer-free” after their treatment still have a long road ahead. If you’re still cancer-free after 1 year then your chances of being ‘cured’ rise linearly; after 5 years, exponentially and so forth. The magic number is 10 years. If you’re cancer-free after 10 years, you’re effectively ‘cured.’ As many cancer patients know, you are never really cured but after 10 years, you’re effectively out of the woods.
When the caretaker told me that, I remember thinking that I would give anything to be 35 that very day. I wanted life to fast forward 10 years. i wanted to know that I’d be ok. I went through treatment with some people who didn’t make it. I was scared shitless. I knew I would have to live with this shadow for at least 10 years. It affected everything I did.
I’m 42 now. Out of the shadows. I have a wonderful wife and a great daughter. I am beyond lucky in many ways. There are days that I complain (mostly in jest) about my slower metabolism, taller hairline and marbled (with fat) physique. And like every joke, there’s a grain of truth. I’m approaching middle age and have many of the typical existential crises.
The downside of moving beyond my “10 year mark” is that it’s harder to remember ‘what’s really important’. I don’t just feel lucky just to be alive and happy. I want more. I think about what I don’t have. I treat everything in my work life with a seriousness and anxiety that’s not appropriate to the real stakes involved. And this quote really slows it down for me. It reminds me of how truly privileged I am.