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On The 1st Anniversary Of My Leukemia Diagnosis, Feeling Thankful About A Year Of Thorns & Roses

October 17th, 2009 · 15 Comments

A year ago today, October 17th, I was diagnosed with Leukemia. That afternoon, I thought I had a stomach flu; by evening, I was hooked up to an i.v. in the hospital beginning cancer treatment.

Though this has not been the best of my 46 years, I am very lucky for a lot of reasons. As of my last blood test on Wednesday, the disease is still in remission. I am feeling good and am now just trying to get myself into shape. I’m back playing basketball, though as one of the players in my regular game has pointed out, chemotherapy has not improved my jump shot.

This blog and its community has been very important to my recovery. I appreciate all the kindness, advice and encouragement I have received from so many people throughout the year.

My own personal disaster has ended up teaching me a lot about the subject matter covered on the blog. It has given me new insight on dealing with trauma, risk, resilience, communicating difficult subjects and even the terror color alerts — though, of course, I would have preferred to learn these lessons in another way! My own crisis and recovery process has energized me even more to work on the preparedness of my community and the nation.

There’s an emergency management truism that disaster response is often as strong as the support systems and community before the crisis. And, it has proved true for me over the past year. Starting at home with my remarkable wife who has made this all as easy for me as physically possible and my two girls who have been profiles in courage. My mom and dad have gone above and beyond for me this year like they have for the previous 45. My brother, as always, has had my back from moment one. And, my mother-in-law has been an incredible help to us throughout.

I am also lucky that much of the rest of my family is here in New York, and I have drawn great sustenance from them. One relative in Boston, a distinguished doctor, has been a constant source of wisdom and optimism no matter how his beloved Red Sox and Bruins did the night before. And, I am lucky to have such good friends who have provided so much support to me and my family — whether it was delivering dinner to us every Friday night, checking in with an email, including me in their prayers, or volunteering to donate blood.

I now have a new appreciation for blood donors. As I sat in the hospital clinic getting infusions as part of my treatment, I looked forward to the time when I would be able to donate myself and return the favor. (I subsequently found out that once you get Leukemia you can never give blood again, but I hope to give back in other ways.) I am particularly fortunate to have had access to state-of-the-art medical care: a doctor who is not only brilliant but empathetic; her physician’s assistant who makes every visit pleasant even when she’s probing my hip bone; and the uniformally skilled and kind nurses on the oncology floor (where I hope only to return to visit).

On Thursday night, I took part in my first “Light The Night” walk sponsored by the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s New York Chapter. It was overwhelming to see thousands of participants and volunteers braving the blustery wind and cold rain on the Brooklyn Bridge to support the efforts of those working on blood cancers. It was exhilarating to be able to mark this milestone in that way.

Leukemia & Lymphoma Society "Light The Night" Walk On Brooklyn Bridge by you.


This past week, I happened to hear Roseanne Cash’s beautiful song, “God Is In The Roses,” for the first time. It seemed so fitting for how I feel about the past year (and the lyrics are particularly appropriate for a disaster blog):

God is in the roses/The petals and the thorns/Storms out on the oceans/The souls who will be born/And every drop of rain that falls/Falls for those who mourn/God is in the roses and the thorns

Yes, there have been some thorns this year, but it has also underscored how many roses I have to be thankful for. And, sometimes it takes a crisis to remind you of that. Thanks, everyone.

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Tags: Preparedness Lessons

15 responses so far ↓

  • 1 michael danziger // Oct 17, 2009 at 5:33 pm


    It has been one year since you faced down leukemia with the poise, courage and optimism that defines you.
    You have been my one and only best friend since we met 41 years ago and I look forward to at least another 41 years of love, friendship and inspiration.

    On behalf of everyone who loves you, I couldn’t be more proud of you or more thankful that you are doing so well.

    With love,


  • 2 Jon Weintraub // Oct 17, 2009 at 10:09 pm


    While I haven’t known you nearly as long as Zig, I echo his sentiments! You’ve been an amazing friend to so many people for so many years, I’m glad that all your friends could give back a little of that support in the last year. The dignity with which you handled this is an inspiration to me and, I’m sure, to all your friends and family.

    I’m so glad that you’ve reached this milestone in good health and I hope the jump shot recovers as well.

    Much love,


  • 3 Louise // Oct 18, 2009 at 10:43 am

    I have only recently started reading this blog, and had no idea that you were battling cancer. Thank you for sharing your personal story.

    Here’s to many more years, cancer free!

  • 4 Jimmy Jazz // Oct 18, 2009 at 3:10 pm


    You’re a pleasure to read and an asset to the web. You’ve made preparedness more approachable and, thus, more useful. While I don’t want to speak for everyone, I think we’re all better prepared because of your work.

    I’m glad your still here, and that I know you.

    Here’s to many, many more years of increasing good times,

  • 5 Josh // Oct 18, 2009 at 3:21 pm

    Thank you for keeping up the blog even while you dealt with the individual challenge. Your perspective both on national issues and on the personal illness has been inspiring to all of us.

  • 6 M.I.L. // Oct 19, 2009 at 10:48 am

    John, Your calm courage sustains us all. Now, to see your sensitivity, Wow! It’s my privilege to know you. Keep up the good fight on all fronts. Love, Anne

  • 7 Rebecca // Oct 19, 2009 at 7:11 pm

    I am so lucky to have known you for so long and to read your journey through the last year. My sister-in-law is a three year survivor of breast cancer. And I know that it was our family, great treatment, and her will to survive that empowered our entire family. You are still an incredible writer and now I enjoy following your passion for other people via facebook.

  • 8 Harry // Oct 19, 2009 at 9:41 pm

    Rock on, amigo. Many happy returns. You are a good man, and we are lucky to have you.

  • 9 William R. Cumming // Oct 20, 2009 at 1:51 am

    From a fellow Cancer survivor thanks for all the effort displayed and great competence and sharing of knowledge on you blog during the last year. Has to have been really tough but I personally appreciate your great efforts and acomplishment. Just keep going. and hoping remission is permanent and everything will be AOK! A rough assignment that you have handled ably. Thanks from me and all you have helped understand the issues that face US!

  • 10 margie // Oct 22, 2009 at 9:28 pm

    always thinking of you and your beautiful family. i can’t believe its been a year. congratulations on this milestone. can’t wait to spend many happy years of celbrations and friendship.

  • 11 tatiana // Oct 27, 2009 at 6:43 pm

    Dear John,

    Thank-you for your beautiful ,inspiring message. Over the past year, you and your amazing family have always been in my thoughts.
    With much love,

  • 12 Lisa Bedford // Oct 28, 2009 at 3:49 am

    I enjoy reading your blog and look forward to the day your book is published. Thanks for sharing this information about your battle with leukemia. You’ll be in my prayers.

  • 13 Lesley and Adam // Nov 2, 2009 at 2:29 pm

    Hi John! We enjoyed walking across the Brooklyn Bridge with you that night. You are a true hero!
    Congratulations on this milestone for you.
    We look forward to many walks across the bridge with you.
    Lesley and Adam (and family!)

  • 14 Ed and Viv Merrin // Nov 11, 2009 at 12:16 pm

    We have been following your progress with your folks. We have and do wish you only the very best.
    With love,
    Ed and Viv

  • 15 John D. Solomon, 1963-2010 // Nov 2, 2010 at 6:14 pm

    [...] ever hid anything — on the contrary, he was refreshingly candid at all times (most notably here). It’s just that he was so consistently sanguine that his illness often seemed like more of [...]

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