What I Want Others to Remember After Being Diagnosed With a Rare Cancer

Approaching the Christmas season of 2004 I was at the top of the world with a new job at a pharmaceutical company, attending a top-tier business school and my wife was pregnant with our first child. On Christmas Eve, I learned I was also a cancer patient with advanced pseudomyxoma peritonei (PMP).

I was lucky my local surgeon had seen one case of PMP before in his career and mentioned hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC) as a treatment option. I was also blessed my father found PMP Pals on the internet. I traveled to some of the best health care facilities across the US and like many PMP patients, was told I had a year to live.

I then visited the HIPEC specialists, chose Dr. Sardi as my surgeon and began my year-long treatment that included chemotherapy, cytoreductive surgery and HIPEC.

Ten years later, I remain free of disease.

My body is changed from the surgery. Some days are difficult, but I’m grateful for the days I’m given.

During my recovery I had the pleasure to become friends with Gabriella Graham, the founder of PMP Pals, as I lived nearby. I was a caregiver and a confidant but most importantly a friend. I’m grateful my family got to know Gabriella who was always a lady, no matter how difficult her circumstances.

Gabriella’s journey was different than mine. She was never free of disease and knew she never would be. But Gabriella made a conscious decision to focus on her blessings and be grateful for her portion, rather than focusing on her plight. Gabriella dedicated her life to helping PMP patients with a message of hope, tirelessly supporting them to the very end.

The point of this story is, no matter what your circumstances are, you need to know there’s hope. Maybe you’re afraid because you’re watching and waiting; please understand although this is difficult emotionally, it may be the best thing to do. Perhaps you’re depressed because you’ve had a recurrence. Try and have hope, because we know patients who’ve had many HIPEC surgeries before finally becoming free of disease. Maybe you’re disheartened because you can’t find a surgeon to help. We know patients who have been turned down by specialists but accepted by others.

The truth is, even if you’ll never be free of disease, there is reason to be hopeful. Regardless of your circumstances or the challenges of your disease, you can do great things in this world, just like Gabriella and other PMP Pals. I’m grateful to have the opportunity to lead an organization dedicated to giving you help and support while you navigate life with PMP.

If you want encouragement and support, visit the PMP Pals’ website at pmppals.net. It would be our pleasure to put you in touch with someone in similar circumstances.

PMP Pals has hope for you.

A version of this post originally appeared on PMP Pals here.

The Mighty, in partnership with Fuck Cancer, is asking the following: What’s the best advice you’ve gotten or a mantra that spoke to you following your diagnosis?  Find out how to email us a story submission here.

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