A long journey already done. A lot more to go, but with the great news that my remission is holding, I want to send a huge Thank You to all who were there during those years.
I will not list anyone by name, as it would probably fill a couple of pages, and inevitably I still would miss so many. Know however, that I think about everyone who along those years helped me, comforted me, moved me forward. Some I don't even know the names -a short interaction that meant little to you- but much to me. Thanks.
It started in Canada, with incredible care at a small medical facility in Sechelt: A clued on Doctor who diagnosed me accurately and arranged for immediate biopsy as a confirmation the next morning.
Yachting friends telling us about Salpare marina in Portland, Oregon, where Enfin could be safe, and where more friends could keep an eye on the boat.
The dog transportation service who understood our weird circumstances and got Princess directly from our boat all the way to France in record time.
My parents arranging our initial arrival in France, our friends in Thoirette who welcomed us should we need it, and took Di and I on much needed walks. Then all in Lyon, at Otelia were they were so kind and full of attentions, to make sure Di and I had the best conditions to live my treatment and convalescence. New friends all around. Some at the nearby park who always enquired about us, helped in so many ways and gave me a daily objective: Go walk with Princess and play with all the dogs. Some in far away places. All there when it counts.
Old friends from all around the world who stayed in touch via Di, and some even came to Lyon for a short visit when it became possible.
Di's family in Puerto Rico who kept tab on me and sent constant messages of encouragement, even care packages.
The incredible French medical system, for the longest time ranked the best by the World Health Organization. I don't know where it ranks officially now, but I know the dedicated professionals are still number one in my eyes. Home visiting nurses, liaison nurses and all the hundreds of personnel I came in contact with. All -without exception- being so very kind, so very helpful and compassionate. They went above and beyond so often, all being infused with a deep sense of duty to their patients.
It was a long road to today, and if an image can speak a thousand words, I'd say these 2 photos illustrate my progress most. From my most tiring and difficult times to now, a world of difference.
Very close to my heart is the Centre Leon Berard, the dedicated cancer hospital in Lyon. It is one of the top 50 in the world for treating blood cancers, and my Doctor is known the world over for her research and progress in a very specific blood cancer type.
Centre Leon Berard (CLB) manages the incredible feat of being a huge hospital with more than 3,000 employees, yet able to remain a very human entity.
I'm sure you've all experienced walking in a large business or bureaucracy, and going around from office to office, having to re-explain the reason you're here, the ins and outs of your history, what you need and so on.
None of that at the CLB. Because people care, they actually pay attention and when you walk in they're expecting you as if you were the only patient that day, and not one of hundreds. They know exactly what is supposed to happen, communicate well between services and at all times you feel you are in good hands.
That's a rather important feeling when you undergo a procedure that has a 3% mortality rate worldwide . The CLB's dedication to excellence means they manage to have kept their mortality at precisely zero patients undergoing that procedure.
For those who think 3% is a low risk, just imagine your 12th grade (Terminale) Maths class. It probably had about 30+ kids in it. 3% mortality means one of these kids becomes a sad statistic.
My Doctor is incredible: A consumed professional with a deep understanding of her subject, but equally importantly a deep belief and understanding that she is treating people, human beings with feelings and thoughts. It's not just about doses of chemo or radio, but about the patient as a whole.
She showed us a light at the end of the tunnel from day one, with heartfelt emotions all along the way. She'd swear like a sailor if my scan results weren't as good as we were all hoping, and would beam with joy when I was doing better. It sure works for me, and I even think that under different circumstances, Di and I would easily have befriended her.
She, and her team, were always available. I did my best to never abuse that privilege, but there were times when getting an answer very late at night meant sleeping well or not. I'm ever so grateful and thankful for her dedication, and leadership qualities. She has a great team, who all pull in the same direction. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Many friends: they cannot all fit in this short page.
So now Di and I can start looking ahead. The last years, we felt like we were living from medical check to medical check. Some times the bad news would have us waiting eagerly for the next one, and hopefully better news. Other times, and more recently, the good news keep us hoping for more and more.
At some point, and especially with the landmark 2 year post treatment remission, we started living in slightly longer intervals. Now we catch ourselves making long term plans once again. It's a great feeling.
Last, I'll break my own "no name" rule, to thank Di. My life partner, love and ever smiling ray of sunshine. She was there with me every step of the way, took the brunt of it by becoming a patient advocate and helper, working with all her energy and might to get us through this.
Early on she called it "our cancer", which made me do an initial double-take. But it absolutely was "our" cancer, and she is a big reason we can now celebrate our remission and future together.
On to other adventures!
I'll continue being under medical surveillance for many years, so we'll all keep our fingers crossed for continued good news. I'm very hopeful and optimistic and know that, as my Doctor has ordered I am living my best life right now, on Enfin with Di and Princess.