When you participate in a TNT event, you are assigned an Honored Teammate that you participate in honor of. Below is the story of my honored teammate who graciously gave me permission to post his story.
BTW, fighting cancer is way more admirable. Just having mono made me a whiny PITA. I can't imagine being seriously ill for years.
I’d like to take this opportunity to share some details of my experience and how it led to my involvement in Team In Training. It was September of 1985, I was 11 years old, and had just started 6th grade. The first symptom was an itchy mass at the base of my neck. My parents took me to the pediatrician, who examined it and said “I don’t know what it is, but I don’t like it.” He sent me to a surgeon who thought it was Hodgkin’s Disease. A biopsy confirmed the suspicion. That was the end of my childhood.
To determine how far the disease had spread, I had surgery to remove my spleen and part of my liver (this was in the era before PET scans). My staging was advanced, but the prognosis was still good. I was prescribed 6 months of chemotherapy and 3 months of radiation.
The chemotherapy I got was designed to destroy rapidly growing cells, cancerous or not. My side effects included severe nausea and mouth sores. Thankfully, these effects were temporary, and I made a full recovery once this portion of the treatment was finished.
My experience with radiation was, in a sense, the opposite of chemotherapy. While the treatment itself was painless, it inhibited the bone and muscle development in the areas where I got the heaviest doses (neck, chest and shoulders). For an 11 year-old boy, that means trouble down the road. But I credit the treatment for doing its job: I am alive today and the cancer is not.
Some survivors refer to cancer as “a blessing in disguise” or “the best thing that ever happened to me.” I am not one of them, but I have gained a few things from the experience. Achieving a goal, such as an award or a college degree, feels slightly more miraculous considering where I was 20 years ago. And after thousands of injections, I am no longer afraid of needles!
While I don’t believe that all bad things happen for a reason, I do believe in making the best of whatever situation comes my way. Working with Team In Training, I aim to support the development of more effective, less invasive ways to fight (and even prevent) blood cancers. I thank you all for joining in this effort. Choosing to fight for the lives of other people is, in a way, even more admirable than my battle against Hodgkin’s Disease, because I wasn’t given a choice.