By Brian E. Walsh
Twenty-three years ago, cancer tried to rock my world in the form of Stage 4 lymphoma. I spent three years going in and out of remission.
In that time, I went through various rounds of chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant. Each time the cancer came back.
During that time, my colleagues from Altmar Parish Williamstown High School bought me a golden retriever puppy, knowing that being home would be hard for me. I named that puppy Khemo. He was a huge part of my therapy.
As a lifetime athlete and coach, I relied on my self-discipline and determination to get through it all. But it was not just me going through it. My wife, Christine, was right by my side. Chris was and is an information person. She researched everything there was to know about my cancer and kept up with all possible therapies. We both had our own form of coping, but most importantly, we both had faith and we held on to hope. That hope came in 1999 in the form of a newly developed drug that put me in remission for the past 23 years.
Since that fine July day, my life has changed drastically. Chris and I adopted a wonderful red-headed baby boy. He was born 1.2 pounds just shy of 24 weeks. James has autism, but just as cancer did not define me, autism does not define James. He is now 19 years old, living in his own place, in college, driving and taking flying lessons. See, he too has held onto and continues to hold onto hope. His life is better because of that positive outlook.
On Sunday, June 2, the Hematology – Oncology Associates of CNY will be sponsoring its Fourth Annual Celebration of Life for National Cancer Survivors at Longbranch Park in Liverpool from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
This event gives us a chance to gather and to acknowledge and share our common experience.
It is labeled a celebration for cancer survivors, but lest we forget that spouses, siblings, parents and children of cancer patients are also survivors. We did not go through or make it through alone; everyone around us also survived. I believe it was harder for my wife than it was for me. I admired all she did for me, and I will always be in debt for what she went through during the years of my cancer treatments. She is just as much a survivor as I am. We love this celebration because it brings us together as a community and offers continued hope.
Cancer tried to rock my world, but with the support of my wife, family, Khemo (my dog), colleagues, friends and, most importantly, hope, I am still here and loving life.
So please, hold onto hope; you never know when and how it will show up and when you might need it!
Brian E Walsh, 60, retired from Altmar Parish Williamstown High School, where he taught for 33 years, and from SUNY Oswego, where he worked as supervisor of student teachers. In January 1996 he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma Stage 4; in July 1999 his cancer went into remission.