Living Alone with Blood Cancer

Let’s see 79 years, 7 months, and 11 days ago as of this writing at exactly 12:45 PM on a bright sunny summer day I arrived alone on this planet kicking, screaming, crying, and facing an unknown future. My mother with her wonderful sense of humor often said I arrived just in time for lunch. For better or worse the fates ruled I was to be an only child with all the blessings and curses such status bestows.

Losing my parents

It turns out the word “alone” will shape and reshape my life many times. Fast forward a few decades. After college, I married the love of my life. Just 5 years later my father passed from cancer followed by my mother’s stroke and death just 7 years later.

Officially a  new alone chapter has begun - one might say I am now a married orphan. Almost like being alone but not quite.

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Becoming empty nesters

In time 2 children come in our lives along with an endless collection of cats, dogs turtles, and fish. We hold several backyard gerbil funerals and often bury fish at sea thanks to a modern convenience in our bathroom. Then one day my son goes off to college followed 4 years later by my daughter. I am tottering on the edge of alone once again but am OK. My wife is still with me and my kids, while distant and preoccupied, are “just” a phone call away.

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Non-Hodgkin lymphoma brings feelings of isolation

Out of nowhere my first encounter with cancer, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, occurs and just like that bright sunny day in August of 1943 I now face an uncertain future and feeling very alone and lost. Feelings of isolation happen with cancer patients because no matter how many people are in your life, we all face this disease as a single individual and run full face-on into a new world of challenges. You can talk all you want but only you as the patient understand the true isolation cancer brings to you in those long and silent times.

The days march on and my original cancer returns. I am no longer in remission. It does not take long until I find myself in a sealed isolated room being bombarded with radiation.

Just 2 years later I find myself in an infusion center looking up at tubes and bottles and once again feeling very alone with masked figures adjusting my drugs and speaking muffled words. No visitors are allowed to offer comfort due to something called COVID-19. At least after 8 hours, I can see the human face of my wife when I return home. Somehow my dog knows something and cuddles into my lap.

Increasingly alone

At this point all of this alone stuff is getting challenging but nevertheless it kicks up another notch. I find myself hospitalized on O2 with Covid. All my human interactions are faceless and are hidden behind face shields while bodies are covered in hazmat suits. Home is far away at this point but soon my ever-present companion “alone” kicks into high gear once again ... with my wife’s sudden passing.

What I discovered is ... as blood cancer patients we are always alone in some shape or fashion. From the time of diagnosis to treatments and beyond we all travel a new path and are not sure where or when that next challenge might arise. For some 79 years I have never really given much thought about the power of being alone in a new world. Oddly and perhaps for the first time since birth, I am finding a new source of strength.

We can choose to look at being consumed by the physical and mental isolation that a blood cancer diagnosis imposes. Or we can take this forced time out to reexamine our God-given gifts. Perhaps being alone is an opportunity for each one of us to seek out new ways to reach out and find innovative ways to better the lives of others who, like us may be facing an uncertain future with this thing called blood-cancer.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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