Good afternoon, everyone.
This is quite an honor. I would really like to thank the incredible staff at the University of Maryland Medical Center, especially my oncologist, Dr. Ivana Gojo, nurses Michael Tidwell, Laura White, Theresa Johnston, and all the wonderful staff at the Greenebaum Cancer center.
Some of you may not be aware of this, but we are an incredible group of famous people. Famous, not because we have won American Idol, or graced the cover of People magazine, but simply because we are survivors. To our friends who are going through the struggle of cancer treatment, every one of us is a true inspiration. We all had our childhood heroes, but now, to our family and friends, we are the heroes. We all have an incredible, life-changing story to share. And I am willing to bet that most of your stories contain many tears, and a good bit of laughter.
When I was diagnosed with an extremely rare form of leukemia last July 7th, I had my wife, April, run out and get me the latest copy of Leukemia for Dummies so I could learn everything about my disease and what I was dealing with. If you've ever had the pleasure of being an in-patient guest at the University of Maryland cancer center, you know that they have you put a daily goal on a dry erase board in your room. My daily goals were a bit unorthodox. For instance, one day my goal read, "No one leaves this room without telling me a joke!" Another day it was, "No one leaves this room without singing me your favorite song." It got so that the staff would come in to my room to see what performance they would have to give that day! And you know what? The nurses and techs worked really hard to help me fulfill my daily goals. It made everyone smile.
Once it was determined that a bone marrow transplant was my only option for survival, a search of the millions of names in the donor bank turned up no matches.
Also my only sibling is a leukemia survivor from the early seventies, and my parents are past the age of eligibility, which disqualified them as donors.
Anyway, to make a really long story short, my then nine-year-old daughter, Gabbie, was my only donor option. She bravely agreed to save my life and, in the process, became the youngest voluntary bone marrow donor in history .
She is the real hero of this story, along with my 13-year-old daughter, Nettie, and my wife, April. I will never understand how they all stayed so incredibly strong and brave.
My transplant was February.17, 2008, and I have been extremely lucky so far, with virtually no complications. At last check, my DNA was 98% my daughter, who is now 10 years old. The only side effect that we are aware of has been this crazy urge to buy high school musical posters and play with Barbie dolls.
During my course of treatment, I was put on a chemotherapy drug called Campath three times a week at the Infusion clinic. We found out that one of the things contained in Campath was a particular type of rat protein. My wife, April, and I decided to search out one of those little rat masks with the nose and whiskers, so that when I went for my next appointment, I could put on the mask, and tell Dr. Gojo, "Hey doc, I think the sideeffects of this Campath are a little worse than you thought!" Lucky for her, my search for the rat mask was unsuccessful. But when I told her my plan, we all had a great laugh!
Anyway, we all know that, while the medications that our doctors prescribe are made to help us, they can have some pretty crazy side effects. I heard about this woman who went to her doctor for a follow-up visit after he had prescribed a certain cancer drug. She was a little worried about some of the side effects she was experiencing. She said, "Doctor, the medication you`ve been giving me has really helped, but I`ve started growing hair in places that I`ve never grown hair before." The doctor reassured her. "A little hair growth is a perfectly normal side effect of this particular medication. Just where has this hair appeared?" The woman calmly replied, "On my testicles."
A favorite practical joke of radiation therapy patients is to toss a green glow stick under the covers after the first day of treatment. It is best if the spouse discovers the glow on their own, but you can help them along by lifting up the covers slightly.
Emily Hollenberg is a four-year breast cancer survivor. To keep her humor and good attitude, she came up with a list of the Top 11 Ways to Know You Are a Cancer Survivor.
Some of the things on Emily's list include:
#11. Your alarm clock goes off at 6 a.m., and you're glad to hear it.
#8. You're back in the family rotation to take out the garbage.
#5. You use your toothbrush to brush your teeth, and not to comb your hair.
#2. Your biggest annual celebration is again your birthday, not the day you were diagnosed.
And Emily's #1: You know you are a cancer survivor when you use your Visa card more than your insurance card.
I think everyone should come up with their own list. It would be a great exercise in humor for all of us.
Just be glad you aren't the guy who went to see his doctor the day after he had a bunch of tests done. He said, "So doc, what did the tests show?" The doctor said, "I've got bad news, and worse news." The guy said, "Wow! Well, what's the bad news?" The doc said, "You've got 24 hours to live." The guy, quite distraught, said, "What on earth could be worse news than that?" The doc replied, "I forgot to call you yesterday!"
Even the American Cancer Society has said: "Although there is no scientific evidence that laughter can cure cancer or any other disease, it can reduce stress, promote health, and enhance the quality of life. Humor has physiological effects that can stimulate the circulatory system, immune system, and other systems in the body."
Really though, everyone here is very blessed, and we are all in an exclusive club, the cancer survivors club. There are many, many people who can't be here because of ongoing cancer treatment, but if they laugh every day and stay positive, and we laugh and stay positive with them, next year, they will be the newest members of this exclusive club.
So, remember: Live every day to the fullest. Love every day with all your heart, laugh every day, pray every day, and tell a joke EVERY DAY, because laughter really is the best medicine!!
Well, I'd love to stay and chat, but I have an appointment with my hairdresser in an hour.
Thank you all, and God bless.
See you next year!
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