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Lisa read my article “How To Survive Cancer” and asked how did I know I had cancer. This is a very strange story because like most people I didn’t know that I had cancer. It started when I was studying Tai Chi in Boston. I started to develop lower back pain which I just attributed to my training. My teacher’s brother was an accomplished acupuncturist so I went to him to rid me of my symptoms. After a couple of months, the pain remained and I developed a small lump in my armpit. I didn’t give it much thought though and went to a chiropractor for the pain. In the first few weeks she treated me my skin developed a sort of parchment-like quality. It was very dry and brittle, something that I had never heard of before. It was pretty scary as I recall. Then, for some reason, she discovered the lump.


She actually said to me, “You have this lump, it’s probably Hodgkin’s Disease (remember it ended up being non-Hodgkin’s disease…how she even got that close in her diagnosis is amazing!)” “Holy S**t”, is what I think I said, “You’re talking about cancer!” Needless to say it completely freaked me out! She told me I should see a doctor and I did, straight away.


Because I was previously so healthy and was a meditater, I went inside my body and started doing an inventory. In my mind’s eye I could see these floating black spots, kind of like the Space Invaders video game (weird, I know, but it’s true). I was convinced that I had cancer. I went to the first doctor and he figured it was Epstein-Barr disease, or Mononucleosis, or cat scratch fever. I told him I thought it was cancer but he was skeptical. I had several tests which were inconclusive. I then went to a second doctor to little avail. Then I developed a second swollen lymph node in my neck. It was like I had the mumps on one side but it mysteriously subsided. Apparently this was very atypical (of course, it was ME!)


The next bit is a little hazy because I went into day surgery to: get an abdominal lymph node biopsied and/or an inguinal hernia fixed. I know there was talk of the hernia but I don’t really remember much about it. At any rate they biposied the node and found no cancer…BUT…several days later my groin swelled up to the size of a grapefruit. Well, I knew this could not possibly be right so I went to the emergency room of Brigham and Woman’s hospital (I was living in Boston at the time) and showed them. They exhibited the appropriate alarm (I think they said “Holy S**t!) and admitted me instantly. I had another biopsy, this time of the original armpit node and they found diffuse large T-cell non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.


So, dear readers and especially Lisa, that’s how I knew I had cancer. Like I mentioned, I had eight months of intensive chemotherapy and survived (I figure that much is obvious). It wasn’t fun, it wasn’t pretty. But there are no guarantees in life, you pays your money and you takes your choices. It’s not what happens to you that affects you, it’s how you process it. I can’t pretend I came through it all rosy, it sucked. Am I a better person for it? I don’t claim to know. I would have preferred for it not to happen but it did. But I am hugely glad to be alive and to be able to share my small story with you. I want to thank you all immensely for reading this. I am happy to answer any of your questions. I don’t think about my cancer much but, believe it or not, I’m glad you gave me this opportunity to remember it.


P.S. I went to a shrink a couple of times when I was depressed. At the second session he paused and said to me, “You know you probably don’t really need me. Of course you’re depressed. You have cancer and your wife left you. You seem pretty normal otherwise. You’ll get through fine. It’ll just take awhile.”


He was right.


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