On an early spring day 11 years ago, my good friend Donna and I went to New York to attend a production Encores!, a program that presents the full scores of musicals that are rarely performed anymore.
But as we walked through Central Park on that beautiful day, there was a cloud over my head. I was awaiting results from repeat of a suspicious blood test that had said all of my blood cell counts were low. The platelets, red blood cells, and white blood cells were all way below normal. My doctor had not yet suggested a diagnosis. But I was afraid I had leukemia.
I kept saying to myself: "I can't possibly have leukemia."
But I did.
On April 9, 2003, I was admitted to Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston for the first of three rounds of chemotherapy.
My mood was much lighter when Donna and I returned to New York just a few days ago to see another program in the Encores! series. For me, it was more than a chance to enjoy a musical performance — it was a way to revisit a place closely tied to my cancer memories and reframe it in a new, healthy context.
We saw a revival of a 1956 musical, “The Most Happy Fella,” by the songwriter Frank Loesser, who is better known for writing the music and lyrics to the hits “Guys and Dolls” and “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.” Meanwhile, I was happy to have recently hit a milestone: Five years post-treatment.
This milestone made me think of others I have passed in my treatment. In 2005, I ran the Saint Patrick’s Road Race, just two years after learning that I had cancer. In fact, it was that very race that had led to my diagnosis. After running the 10K near my home in Western Massachusetts in 2003, I experienced such extreme fatigue that I made the appointment which led to my leukemia diagnosis.
I felt grateful for that earlier race because it caused me to get treatment while I was otherwise healthy enough to withstand intensive chemotherapy. A different type of gratitude rushed over me when I finished the 2005 race in good health.
Taking advantage of these opportunities to retrace your steps is not just extremely life-affirming, it also offers a chance to put a new layer over bad memories.
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