November 29th: 1978, 1995, and 2010

“I remember that I am here not because of the path that lies before me,
but because of the path that lies behind me.”
–Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), The Matrix Reloaded

It’s relatively rare to be able to say with absolute certainty what you were doing on a specific day in your past.

Usually, people associate this with remembering what they were doing when news broke of a significant event: JFK’s assassination, the fall of the Berlin Wall, Princess Diana’s death, the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001, etc. For me, this day of November 29th is a little different.

First off, it’s my birthday–I’m 32 years old this year–but that’s not what I’m referring to. In an example of what I’m convinced goes beyond mere coincidence, November 29th also happens to be the anniversary of my last session of chemotherapy treatment for Stage 2A Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 1995. As you might expect, I find it difficult to believe that this November 29th marks fifteen years since that last treatment session.

Although those months of treatment were undoubtedly the most unpleasant experience of my life, and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy, I harbor no illusions: What I went through is incredibly minor compared to what people who are diagnosed with more severe forms of cancer have to endure. I thank God that I was not diagnosed with a more severe and deadly form of cancer. Besides which, the unpleasantness of my experience was made far easier to bear by all the friends, relatives, and even strangers who expressed support for me during those months, as well as the skill, professionalism and kindness of the doctors and nurses who treated me.

I believe God took the opportunity my illness provided to teach me two crucially important lessons. The first and most obvious lesson was of how precious every moment of life is. The second–but no less crucial lesson–was how important the support and love of friends and family really are, and how your initial impressions of peoples’ feelings towards you can be deceiving (in a good way); some of my most fervent supporters among my high school classmates were people I had trouble getting along with prior to my diagnosis.

In closing, I would like anyone who might be reading this to do me four favors today:

First, please support these organizations in any way you can:
*The American Cancer Society–http://www.cancer.org
*Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C)–http://www.standup2cancer.org
*The Make-A-Wish Foundation–http://www.wish.org
*Give Kids The World–http://www.gktw.org

Second, if you are a praying person–whether you call yourself Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist or none of the above–please take a moment today to make thankful prayers for your health and life.

Third, whether you believe in a higher power or not, please take time to appreciate your friends and loved ones. Kiss your husband, wife, boyfriend or girlfriend. Hug and kiss your children, if you have any. Tell your parents and siblings that you love them. Visit your grandparents if you can. Hang out with your friends.

Fourth, if the weather and your comfort level will allow it, go outside and spend a few moments taking in some nice, long deep breaths of fresh air and remember: Whatever else might be going wrong for you, you can still draw breath.

And in the final analysis, that’s saying something.

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