A week ago John threw out Willy. Willy (as in Free Willy) was a blue helium dolphin. Willy was a survivor. He lasted three weeks! You are probably wondering what a grown man of forty-two was doing with a dolphin balloon. Well, my sister Val and I gave him to John as a survivorhip gift. You see, John is a survivor like Willy. John is a cancer survivor. Let me digress for a minute.
One morning five years ago John called me up. "I have cancer," he said. "No you do not," I replied. "The nurse called me at 7:30, woke me up, and told me I did," he said. "You must have dreamt it," I countered. "Nurses don't call at 7:30 in the morning at your house and tell you you have cancer. Doctors call you, and tell you to come into their office, and tell you in person. You had better call back and make sure you didn't dream it or something." I got off the phone. Five minutes later he calls back. "The nurse put me through to the doctor. I have cancer. Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma." I was stunned. I thought I was going to fall against the wall. I couldn't breathe. I felt like the life was being drained out of me. How could this be? One day you are normal and the next day this. Well not exactly normal. He had gone into surgery a few days before for something else and when he had come out the surgeon had said, "We found a lump, but don't worry, I am sure it is probably nothing. But just to be safe, I am going to do a biopsy." Because he said not to worry, we hadn't and now this. How naive of us. Before hanging up, the doctor told John to make an appointment with the oncologist ASAP.
The oncologist was very negative in a lot of ways. He told John basically that he wasn't going to live, but that he should get treatments, and that would allow him to live a little bit longer. But that he didn't think that he would live. The best that he could hope for was to live long enough for a cure to arrive before he died. Ouch was an understatement. John has had a total of four oncologists since his diagnosis. Only since his last oncologist has he gotten a really positive one. Good thing he carried on despite them!
John decided to pull himself together and fight with everything that was within himself to live. He did not care what any doctor told him no matter what - he was determined to live. He ignored negative after negative statement. One good thing was that he was given an experimental treatment. It worked fantastically well on him. But it also weakened him. He was in the hospital three or four times that year. He almost died as many. It is easy to get an infection during chemo, and if you do, you have to go to the hospital immediately. Once his temperature got up to 104 degrees. They were going to cut open his chest the next day to see what kind of lung infection he had to try and bring it under control. Miraculously it cleared up over night!
John was a real trooper during chemo. He took it with real positivity. I really believe his will to live is one of the things that got him through. And his great treatment. And the prayers of so many people. He was prayed over by my local priest, and prayed by people from every denomination out there.
So there came the day when we were in the oncologist's office for a checkup and the oncologist, looked at him and said, you don't have cancer anymore. I about near feel against the wall. I couldn't breathe. "What did you just say?" I asked. I didn't think I heard him correctly. "He doesn't have cancer anymore."
We were too grateful to know what to do.
Every year John goes back and every year the same thing. A clean CT scan, a clean bill of health.
So this year Valerie and I had a little party for John. We took him to his favorite pizza joint, got him a gift certificate from Barnes and Noble, and bought him a giant Willy.