Monday, May 22, 2017

Will I be here for..... ?

May 2012, Six Days Post-Op
Five years ago today, on May 22, 2012,I started my recovery.  The prior months were a blur of activity -- the symptoms, the missed diagnosis, the diagnosis, learning about options, decisions, 10 weeks of a chemotherapy clinical trial at Dana Farber Cancer Institute and, finally, on May 22nd, surgery.  The treatment was over, it had largely been in the hands of experts.  Recovery was in my hands, with the help of family and friends.  If five year's passed without a recurrence, it would be official -- I'd have my health back too!  Until then, I'd focus on recovering from the treatment and regaining my strength.

Yesterday, I celebrated this anniversary with a 65 mile bike ride, including my first Boston Brain Tumor Ride.  The recovery has gone well.  The last of my screenings is this Wednesday morning.  If it also goes well, I can finally say with certainty that I have health back.
November, 2016 in Jerusalem, Israel

While I don't recall many of the questions that I had for my oncologist, there is one that is with me everyday.  It came after the diagnosis, and after I'd seen the results of my MRI, showing the damage first hand.  It was the hardest question to ask, "will I be here for my son's graduation?"  The doctor answered with a question of his own, "how old is your son?". 

With Benji on the 2014 Israel Ride
I missed Benji's college graduation, as I couldn't travel during the chemo. Since the surgery, it's been a full five years -- Josh's High School graduation, Sara and Josh's college graduations, Adam and Michelle's wedding, Michelle's graduate school graduation, five more anniversaries, five more Pan-Mass Challenge Rides (with Josh, Benji, Sara, Adam, and my sister in law, Lisa, each joining me for at least one of them, and Josh joining me for all five!), five more Israel Rides (including being able to share the 2014 Israel Ride with Benji!), making Cycle for Survival into a family event, being able to join in the Ride for Food and, finally, yesterday's Brain Tumor Ride. Each moment is a celebration of life. 

On my bike ride home yesterday, I took a detour and rode through Elm Bank.  This is where friends and family were good enough to take me for many of my daily walks after the surgery.   While the walks started with a few shaky steps, they grew to 5 - 10 miles a day over the first 10 weeks.  That allowed me to get back on my bike in time for the 2012 Pan-Mass Challenge:

2012 PMC
I'm mindful each day that my outcome could have been different.  My nephew, Guy Bar-Yosef was diagnosed with cancer at about the same time as me.  Despite his amazing faith, high quality medical care, and overwhelming love and support from his family and friends, we lost Guy to cancer in August, 2013.  
Guy's Amphitheater (top right), Dedicated in his memory on the 2016 Israel Ride
As much progress as we've made, cancer remains a terrible and indiscriminate disease.   On May 22, 2012, I got control of regaining my strength.  Being cancer free, and having my health, I owe to incredible medical care, the love and support of family and friends, and good fortune -- it is a gift I can never repay.

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