Despite all the late effects, the constant struggles, the pure weariness of having had cancer, there are a few fringe benefits that come with being a long-term Hodgkin Lymphoma survivor. Here are a few, in no particular order…
1. You are a mystery…
Unlike some other cancers, you may never have an answer as to why you had Hodgkin Lymphoma. So…. make one up! Here’s your chance to be enigmatic, mystifying, unconventional! When someone asks you, you can find a truly ingenious response, or choose from one of the following:
“An alien from outer space took over my body.”
“I got it from petting my Iguana.”
“I ate too many strawberry ‘Twizzlers’ when I was a kid.”
“A wicked witch cast a spell on me, made me walk through a purple cloud, my hair turned green, and I ended up with Hodgkin’s. Go figure.”
2. Yes, you do, in fact, glow in the dark… (Thank you to Paul Edelman for the reminder….)
This perk comes in VERY handy. You are like a human night light. You can find your way to the bathroom without incident. You can impress your friends when looking for your car in a dark parking lot late at night. “Come on guys! Over here! Just follow me!”
When you go to a rock concert, you don’t need your cell phone for the encore. You just stand up and sway back and forth.
3. You lack underarm hair (if you’re a woman)Just think of the amount of time you’ve been saving by not having to shave! Never mind the cost of razors, shaving cream or waxing at the salon! With all the money you’ve saved on personal hygiene, you are able to buy a second home, or a “mid-life-crisis” car, like a snappy little Mercedes convertible!
4. You have a gorgeous, slender, elongated neck No turkey “wattle” in YOUR future!
Not only will you avoid having a fleshy, sagging throat as you get older, but you will be stretched so tight from your radiation treatment that you’ll barely have wrinkles! You don’t have to bother covering up with multiple diamond chokers or a silk ascot- you can just sail along like the swan that you are! If you are really lucky, your giraffe-like neck will give you a height advantage as well. While everyone else is beginning to stoop with old age, you can see for miles, head and shoulders above everyone else. It’s like having a built-in telescope.
AND, as a long and slender neck is immediately recognizable in the world of glamour and fame, you are frequently mistaken for Audrey Hepburn if you are a woman, Matthew McConaughey if you’re a man. Not too shabby.
5. You are a member of a rather heroic “club”- Like those brave few who have climbed Mount Everest without an oxygen tank, you have surmounted all odds. You have persevered, even when every inch of you wanted to quit. You can forget all the times you weren’t chosen for the baseball team, or the cheerleading squad, or that snooty country club. That’s small stuff now. After decades of survivorship, you have achieved a “Guinness Book of World Records”-like status.
Cocktail parties in YOUR club are fascinating. You mix and mingle with fellow Hodgkin’s survivors who share “zipper scars,” radiation tattoos, and replacement parts like artificial valves, stents, and breast implants. You trade hard luck stories that make more conventional conversations seem like lullabies. While your “normal” friends are toasting each other’s good fortune, you are thriving in the company of your fellow warriors, happy just to be alive.
“Your son is going to Yale? You’re going on safari? Marvelous!” gets replaced with,
“Your pulmonary function tests are above 55%? You’ve only been to the doctor’s office sixty-four times this month? Me too!”
Yes, my fellow Hodgkin’s survivors, it’s not all doom and gloom! There are things to celebrate, silver linings in just about everything. There are plenty of things we can’t change, but there are still a few things that we can simply “reframe.” Just hang on to your sense of humor, keep your head up (even if you need scaffolding to do it), and always remember that your “club,” your “tribe,” has your back. And your skinny neck.