clock with the numbers being blood droplets and a family photo

Yes, I'm Aware

By the time you read this, I will be an “empty nester.” My oldest has moved out of the house. My middle child is a junior in college, living four states away. And my youngest has packed her life into boxes and bags, we stuffed it all into our car, and we drove her off for her first year of college.

My wife and I are ready to start our new lives. It’s like we’re newlyweds again. Except we’re mostly hoping we’ll get the first decent nap we’ve had in 22 years.

Enter Blood Cancer Awareness Month

The day we became empty-nesters was also the first day of Blood Cancer Awareness Month. Being reminded to be “aware” was really fitting. When you’re packing up all of the stuff that three adult children have accumulated over their lives, you become aware of a whole lot of things. Like how much of that stuff brings back really wonderful memories. How much of it “sparks joy,” as de-cluttering expert Marie Kondo says. And how much of it really doesn’t matter.

I’ve always had a funny relationship with Blood Cancer Awareness Month. The idea that I should be “aware” of my cancer is kind of silly. I’m aware of it every day. How could I not be?

But doing things like packing up my kids’ stuff and driving them far away? That makes me super aware.

Looking back on my life with follicular lymphoma

I was diagnosed with follicular lymphoma almost 12 years ago. When I was diagnosed, I read that the median survival rate was 8 to 10 years. (It’s actually closer to 20 now.) Like everyone who was just diagnosed, I had no idea how long I’d be alive. And like most of us, I had bad days when I assumed it wouldn’t be very long.

My kids were 10, 8, and 6 when I was diagnosed. I remember praying, “Please, just give me 5 years. Maybe they’ll be old enough at that point to be OK without me.”  I had no idea if I’d be around to see them in a week. And now, here they are, all grown up and out of the house.

It’s times like these – sweaty from carrying bags and boxes and stuffing them into a car – that I am most aware of having blood cancer. And I smile because I’m still here. I’m happy to be here, to be able to do all of that work.

It feels like I've lived four lifetimes

Sometimes it seems like I’ve lived about 4 whole lifetimes. Not just chapters in one life, but enough drama and emotion for a whole life in just a few years.

Once upon a time, I was a happy, healthy 40-year-old with a wife, 3 kids and a dog. And then I was diagnosed, and my old life ended, and a new life began. Then I watched and waited until I needed treatment. I was living in-between, not sick but not really well. And then that life ended, and a new life began. Then I had successful treatment. A new life. And things have been going well. I’ve watched my kids grow into good people.

And now another new life has begun.

I’m looking forward to it. I’m grateful for it.

And I’m very aware.

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