Honored Hero Daniel Robertson:
My name is Daniel Robertson and I am a 3 time survivor of blood cancer. Cancer did not make its way into my life kindly or quietly. In fact, it demolished my world with all the grace of a Mack truck. The collision brought my life and plans to a screeching halt.
I was diagnosed with Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma, a rare type of lymphoma. It is aggressive and hard to treat. My oncologist told me that I had a maximum of 12 months to live, and that I would never reach remission or be cancer-free. I knew at that moment that my life would never be the same. I went into shock. I sat there numbly trying to make peace with the fact that I had cancer and that I was dying. Meanwhile the doctor kept talking quickly, throwing terms at me. The voice inside my head kept screaming, “stop talking!” I was at my breaking point, yet he continued to fill the room with information, until I felt like I was drowning in terminology. Some of the terms and phrases I remember vividly: malignant, chemo port, radiation, cancer stages and bone marrow biopsy.
This onslaught of information was followed by tests, scans, more tests and more scans. It was determined that my cancer was at stage 3. Chemotherapy treatments started the same week, followed by radiation treatments, hair loss, pain, feelings of isolation and horrible side effects. I remember being sicker than I ever thought possible. The fatigue was devastating. More than once I fell asleep at the dinner table, right in the middle of chewing.
Thirteen months after my diagnosis, my oncologist found a cancerous tumor in my head. This tumor changed my cancer from stage 3 to stage 4. You normally go from stage 4 to hospice. I was told that I was on my way out and should get my affairs in order.
This is where my story, and my life, start to improve. My oncologist was able to get me enrolled in an experimental drug trial. A drug trial that was funded by money donated to cancer research and to LLS. Around the same time I made the decision to fight back. A dear friend taught me the power of meditation, self-empowerment and self healing. I used my new found spirituality in conjunction with the experimental chemo. I decided that my life was and is worth fighting for.
This September made 7 years and 8 months since I was given 12 months to live. Not only am I still alive, in July, I was declared cancer free. Brantuximab has since been approved by the FDA and has been proven to be effective in treating other types of cancer. I no longer think of myself as only a cancer survivor. I am a cancer thriver. I have had long periods of illness. I received chemotherapy every other week for 24 months, 85 doses of radiation and 3 surgeries to remove tumors. After all is said and done, I ended up as a success story. I have become a better person and an advocate through my experiences. I have allowed cancer the opportunity to teach me what I need to know in life and to see the world from a new perspective. No matter what, I have conquered the feelings of being hopeless.
By raising funds for cancer research, we all have the ability to change lives. Never underestimate its importance. A change in treatment, a new drug or a new procedure can happen at any time. There will never be a cure for cancer without research. My best advice is live a life that you are proud of. Cancer is no longer a death sentence.