Reflections on Another Remarkable Year in Remission
by Lynn H. Aspey, MS
2016 was quite the year. I retired from my job, and on the very same day, I was diagnosed with small lymphocytic lymphoma. Can you imagine?
Of course, my mind took me to the deep, and I assumed I was going to die. Not the case, however. I met with my amazing oncologist, Dr. Jennifer Woyach, who said to me, “You will die with it, but not because of it.”
My brain had a tough time comprehending that idea. Nevertheless, she was right. I am still here to celebrate my 74th birthday with family and friends. Whoever thought turning 74 – with the silver hair and the wrinkles – could be so joyous?
The fact that many cancers now can be managed as chronic diseases is a tremendous development in medicine. While my cancer has progressed to chronic lymphocytic leukemia, or CLL, the advances in blood cancer treatment are incredible.
I remember my first meeting with Dr. Woyach and Mark Reid, my nurse practitioner; I surprised myself at how I reacted in learning I had chromosomes that put me at elevated risk for blood cancer. Looking back on it, I realize I was quite a pill – definitely not the ideal patient. However, I don’t know if I would ever be considered an ideal patient. I enter every procedure and treatment with great apprehension.
My life over the past six years has been filled with clinical trials, bone marrow biopsies, surgeries, reactions to medicines, infusions, fears, infections, bruising, fissures on my hands, and doctor’s visits, one right after the other. But aside from cancer, I lead quite a normal life. Although you wouldn’t think it, judging by everything I just listed, I have very few limitations. And those only occur after treatments and surgeries.
My doubting self once thought I would never make it to 74. But here I am! In a few days, I will be celebrating the momentous occurrence.
My birthday celebration will include so many loved ones who have been supportive of me over the last six years. Many people lose friends when they’re diagnosed with cancer. This happens for a variety of reasons: some people don’t know what to say or how to be supportive, they decide to cut their losses sooner than later, they think your illness will be a downer and ruin all the fun, or seeing a friend going through cancer may just be too painful for them. I have been fortunate to have a small circle of friends and family who have been there for me through everything, walking alongside me through the darkness and the light. Their support has given me the strength and courage to move forward, one foot at a time and one day at a time.
Although fear still grips my soul at times, and doubt sometimes creeps in, I’m ready to embark on another remarkable year in remission. I will party when I can, work out as much as possible, and be a wife to Wayne, a mother to Ryan and Chantelle, a grandmother to Charley and Parker, and a friend to those in my circle.
So – ready or not – here I come, 74!
Lynn Aspey is a chronic lymphocytic lymphoma survivor living in New Albany, OH.
This article was published in Coping® with Cancer magazine, May/June 2022.
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