20 In 2020

I was returning from a one-week stay-cation. Well, we didn’t call a vacation where you didn’t go anywhere a stay-cation back then but that’s what it was. Probably the most memorable part of that particular vacation was when my son Bryan and I went to a Yankee game. Down a run in the bottom of the ninth, the Oakland A’s brought in their closer.

He immediately blew the save on one pitch by giving up a game-tying home run to Bernie Williams. The closer followed this up with the next pitch which David Justice promptly delivered into the stands for the game-winner.

This game may have been the greatest game I ever witnessed at the stadium, including Game 1 of the World Series which would be played later that same season.

This was my frame of mind when I drove to work that Monday morning on my first day back from vacation.

Way back in my consciousness I might have remembered the physical I had the same day of that Yankee game. I know I wasn’t really thinking about it but that would soon change.

Having had my first cup of coffee and having caught up with my friends and staff, I started to delete the emails that had accumulated during my one-week hiatus. I didn’t get too far.

Shortly after 9:00 AM I received a telephone call. It was my doctor. This was highly unusual as he was normally so busy he barely had time to chat when I was in his office. From the moment I said hello my doctor ignoring pleasantries got right to the matter at hand.

He informed me that the results of the blood test that been performed indicated I had Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia or CLL.

I only heard leukemia.

Sensing my shock my doctor went on to explain that if I had to have cancer this was the type to have. He continued by saying that most CLL patients usually died of something other than leukemia.

I didn’t feel that much better.

Nevertheless, after hearing such alarming news so early in the morning, I did what most American Men would do under the circumstances. I called my mommy! No, sorry, I called my wife.

For those of you who are fans of Seinfeld, there was a scene where George is missing and Steinbrenner goes over to the Costanzas to tell them George is dead. Then Frank Costanza leaves a message in his famous staccato voice, “Jerry this is Frank Costanza. George is dead, call me back.”

I am not certain but my call to Eileen to let her know I had CLL may have resembled this.

Not realizing the impact this was having on her as she started her first day back from vacation, I lamely reassured her that this is no big deal. So, while she got on the phone to an oncologist to set up the rest of the week for me, I turned to the internet and confirmed what CLL was and whether it was treatable, etc etc etc. The things you would want to know when greeted with such news.

That was twenty years ago today.

I have endured chemotherapy on two separate occasions. Once in 2000 shortly after my diagnosis. Then, after a resurgence, I once again was treated in 2007. Then, starting in 2016, I began taking a daily regimen of a pill that has kept my blood work looking good.

I have been really fortunate. Had that phone call been received in 1970 or 1980 or even in 1990 my outcome may have not been so positive. While a vaccine has not yet been developed to eliminate CLL or any cancer, new drugs and treatments have enabled patients to live a relatively normal life.

That is why I have great faith that a vaccine or treatment for COVID 19 will be developed.

I didn’t think about a long term survival twenty years ago. I really didn’t think about anything at all. I felt ok and probably thought there was some kind of mistake.

Plausible deniability I think they call it.


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