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!Â 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.Â 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.)Â 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.
WALKING ON THE BROOKLYN BRIDGE THURSDAY NIGHT AT THE LEUKEMIA & LYMPHOMA SOCIETY’S “LIGHT UP THE NIGHT”
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.