Today is my six month Cancerversary. Six months ago today I was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, a plasma cell cancer that eats at the bones. An INCURABLE but MANAGEABLE Cancer that has given me perspective, turned me towards people and things that are most important to me and has proven that with the right ATTITUDE, and a true SUPPORT NETWORK – ANYTHING is possible.
The late coach Jim Valvano once said “Every day ORDINARY men achieve EXTRAORDINARY things.” I am an ordinary man driven by Cancer to achieve the extraordinary.
On my six month Cancerversary I looked back. This was the email I sent my friends on the way back from Dr. J’s office for the first time:
Want to share some recent news with you all. Some of your wives may already know but I have been diagnosed with suspicions of a form of blood cancer called Multiple Myeloma.
I am on my way back from Mt Sinai now after meeting with the very best doctor in the country for this particular ailment. We will not have an official “diagnosis” until the results of a biopsy are back but we are fairly certain what the result will be.
The course of treatment will be Chemo, bone marrow transplant, and then more meds. I will probably start next week or week after.
All indications are that the prognosis is good and that I will lead a long life but as you know these types of things can throw a curve ball or two so I am cautiously optimistic. If you read anything about this cancer you will find that the survival rates are low but there has been huge advances in this area since most of that stuff was written.
I am only sending this out to you all in email form because I can’t pick which one of you I like best to call first. I love you all the same.
I have three requests:
1. Don’t use the C word (cancer) when talking about this with others. My kids know I am sick but I don’t want them to dwell on what it is.
2. If you see me – give me a hug. I could use a lot of hugs right now.
3. For those in my fantasy football league know that I will beat you all so badly this year and come back even stronger to defend my crown next year.
Count your blessings. I am blessed to have friends like you all.
I will beat this.”
That was the second time I cried. I couldn’t get through writing that email without crying a few times. The first time I cried was when I found out from the doctor a few days earlier. And then there were two other times – one when I couldn’t button my top button on my dress shirt because the bloating was so bad from the chemo and the other when I sneezed in Philadelphia and wrenched my back.
And although I cried when I wrote it – they weren’t necessarily tears of pity. I knew that my friends had my back (and boy do they ever) and that made me feel so great. Tears of pity mixed in with tears of joy because one man should not be so fortunate to have friends like this.
The men I wrote this email to have come to treatments with me on Fridays and Saturdays. They have sat in the treatment center and watched and waited as nurses poked and prodded me with needles and sometimes shots. The Mt. Sinai staff affectionately calls them my POSSE. These men have cooked for me, watched my kids for me, stepped in and coached for me. They have regularly called me, emailed me and texted me. They READ this blog. They SHARE this blog. Heck – I think one of them even bought the publishing rights for when I am gone. I see them wearing their #bradstrong bracelets all over town among with many others who continue to keep me (us) in their prayers.
With friends like mine, you feel as if there are no enemies in your life. And I am sure I have more than a few (Craig Carton not included) – My friends make me feel protected from Cancer. They make me feel safe, they comfort my family and they silently challenge me every day to be more like them. To be more caring, compassionate and thoughtful in my every day actions. They challenge and inspire me to be regular. To participate (actively) in our lives together – whether it’s fantasy baseball, fantasy football (which by the way I will crush you all this fall), swimming at our house or milestones like Bar and Bat Mitzvahs coming up. I want to share all of the upcoming milestones with you, your families and the rest of our great POSSE. As the song goes … “You make me feel so young…”
I made you all a promise at the end of that email. I promised you that “I WILL BEAT THIS”. and I will. I don’t know for how long …. But I am beating it every day. Six months in. Look at the tables. Average/Median survival for Multiple Myeloma is 5-7 years. I am 1/12th to 1/14th of the way there. High Risk Multiple Myeloma average/median survival is 2-3 years. I am 1/4 to 1/6 toward the average end of my life.
So – EVERY SINGLE DAY is to be celebrated. EVERY SINGLE DAY counts. EVERY SINGLE DAY is an opportunity to live the day after it – in health, in happiness and in MEANINGFUL FRIENDSHIP. I don’t give a flying fuck about 5-7 years or 2-3 years or whatever the MEDIAN is. I made a PROMISE to all of you. “I WILL BEAT THIS.”. It’s that simple really. Averages and medians are for wusses. I am an OVERACHIEVER!
As my great cuz @court_mannCHI says: “Circumstances don’t define you, they REVEAL you.” Aint that the truth!
Yesterday I had treatment – DEX (Steroid as if you couldn’t tell from this entry), Carfilzomib and Zometa the bone strentghener. I came home, took my boy Victor to the ball field and hit him 120 ground balls. You don’t get many second chances in life – or in the infield for that matter. We came home, swam together, played pool basketball and stopped every once in awhile for a hug break. Even Helene came in the pool last night. Those are my favorite nights.
Every day that goes by I live as if its my last with every expectation I will have another one tomorrow. I do every damn thing I can to keep that promise. “I WILL BEAT THIS”
Off to Mount Sinai – last day of cycle 6. Going to fight some Cancer today. Then the bye week. I LOVE the bye week. Drive home safely – BEEP, BEEP!