Now that my initial course of chemotherapy is behind me, I find myself pondering what is in store for me in the next leg of this journey and reflecting on what I learned so far.
Looking back on this experience that started late in 2011, I have to recognize that I am lucky in my misfortune even though my cancer is advanced and is considered to be an aggressive form of Non Hodgkin Lymphoma (NHL). So far, I have been able to cope very well with the treatments without any serious side effects, infections or complications. My body has responded well to the chemotherapy, but my oncologists tell me that some sites affected by the cancer remain present. The next step is to allow the last cycle of chemotherapy to take effect, and then assess the overall results by undergoing a CT and PET scan later in September. From what I understand from the medical experts and my readings here and there, I might have to go through more chemotherapy or perhaps some a bone marrow transplant to complete the treatment. I will know more in October.
While I am satisfied that my medical is adequately managing the medical aspects of my disease, I realize that it is only one part of the equation. As for the rest, I have face the human and emotional side of my illness, its impact on me and the people close to me. Thanks to the supportive people around me and other cancer survivors who were kind enough to have shared their experiences, I have learned many things that have helped make this journey easier to bear. The following are a few things I have come to learn during on the first leg of this journey:
- Life is short and precious. Isn’t it really about our passions, the people we meet and the things we create and share with them?
- To look at this illness as an opportunity to learn and readjust my focus on Life;
- To focus on the present and seize the moment (Carpe Diem);
- Embrace Life in all its aspects, the good with the bad (Frederich Neitzche);
- Life is simple;
- To keep active, both physically and intellectually;
- Try new things;
- Recognize and acknowledge the good things and people around me, for which I should be grateful;
So to celebrate the start of this second leg of my journey and put some of these principles into action, this weekend I took the opportunity to go and see the Victor Van Gogh exhibit “Van Gogh Up Close” at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa with my sister. It was not only a once in a lifetime chance to see more than 40 of his works from all over the world, it also gave me the opportunity to get closer to my sister and to celebrate a memorable evening with my close cousins and their families.
I was particularly touched by another cancer patient named Paz, who sought me out in the crowd in the museum to share her experience, recognizing that I too was a cancer patient going through chemotherapy. Offering her my wishes of healing and wellness, I left her with a heartfelt hug and words of encouragement.
To my Family and friends who have inspired and encouraged me and to Paz who made my day, I dedicate this blog page.