By Danny Brill
I must begin by expressing my gratitude for being alive and capable of engaging in various activities. Throughout my journey, I have received immense support from different individuals, including doctors, nurses, technicians, pharmacists, fellow survivors, and organizations like Hodgkin’s International. My mission now is to extend that support, education, and encouragement to my fellow survivors as much as possible.
Similar to the Beastie Boys’ battle for their right to party, cancer survivors find themselves in an ongoing fight, whether they like it or not. This fight encompasses safeguarding our health, seeking the right doctors, advocating for suitable treatments, challenging the healthcare system, grappling with our own bodies, and sometimes even confronting friends and loved ones who struggle to understand our experiences. To reach over 30 years as a cancer survivor, determination and resilience become essential factors. As I write this, I am proud to be working towards my 33rd year as a survivor.
I am here to tell you that achieving the seemingly impossible is within your reach if you are willing to persist. Allow me to illustrate the daily struggles and triumphs through “A Day in the Life of a Survivor.”
Today, I met my new cardiologist, replacing my retired previous one. Over the last few months, I faced significant heart issues stemming from the radiation treatment I underwent for Hodgkin lymphoma in 1991. This led to three separate hospitalizations during that period. In one instance, during a video appointment with my previous cardiologist, I appeared unwell, prompting her to immediately instruct me to rush to the emergency room. As a result, I lost 30 pounds within a week, primarily due to fluid retention issues caused by my heart’s inability to efficiently remove it. Moreover, having had my spleen removed in 1991, which plays a vital role in the immune system, posed additional challenges.
Nonetheless, when I saw my new cardiologist, she expressed astonishment at how well I managed the fluid retention since leaving the hospital. She shared a story of another patient with similar heart damage who faced immense struggles in keeping their fluid levels in check. The head of the transplant team devised a surgical solution, but fortunately, my cardiologist believed I was already managing my situation exceptionally well without needing the surgery. I consider this a positive outcome.
During our discussion, my doctor also commended me on my long survival as a cancer patient, which, statistically, is quite rare. She proposed that I would greatly benefit from participating in a cardiac rehabilitation program to enhance my heart’s capacity. I eagerly embraced this opportunity, knowing it requires time and dedication over several weeks. The program aims to assess and push the boundaries of my heart’s capabilities to improve its overall function.
I find myself appreciating the different approach my new cardiologist adopts in comparison to my previous one. While the previous doctor was heavily focused on numbers and the latest cardio oncology studies, the current one takes a more comprehensive view, considering lasting medical research and the overall picture of my situation. Together, we have devised a plan, and I am hopeful for positive results.
I take a moment to acknowledge the contribution of Jardiance, a miracle drug that has significantly improved various aspects of my health since I started taking it. However, its high cost in local pharmacies highlights the need for more accessible healthcare options in America.
During the appointment, we also discussed the condition of my kidneys, which is not perfect but not dire either. My doctor adjusted my medication and outlined future steps to address this aspect of my health.
I must commend the dedication of my cardiologist, as she even worked through her lunch break to accommodate my appointment. Such care and concern further reinforce my gratitude for the exceptional medical attention I receive.
Additionally, my primary care doctor has proven to be an excellent physician, and my cardiologist emphasized the importance of retaining his services. His personalized care and attention have made a significant difference in my health journey.
As a veteran, I am thankful for a nation that fulfills its promises to those who have served, enabling me to access world-class medical care and advice from some of the best professionals in the field.
While none of us can predict how long we will be here or control every aspect of life, I firmly believe that following the treatment plan and staying connected with knowledgeable healthcare professionals tailored to your specific situation is essential for longevity and well-being.
So, this is how my day unfolded. I would also like to take a moment to inquire about your day—how was it?
To those who might not have access to doctors as exceptional as mine, I urge you to proactively seek out the care you need. I have personally traveled across the country and even relocated to obtain the medical support required for my journey. How far are you willing to go to find the care you need?
Sending my best wishes to all my fellow survivors out there!
Danny G. Brill
Please note: the thoughts and opinions expressed within the content are solely the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the the opinions and beliefs of Hodgkin’s International.