I’m Still Breathing – guest post

True beauty ...

Grey, rainy day.  Still battling this sinus infection.  Doctor put me on antibiotics. Told me to take a few days off.  Worked 10 hours the day after Thanksgiving.  Twice my normal.  And I felt it.  The last of my roses are finally fading.  Brought blossoms in the house up to last week.  Finished the roof on my mother’s shed before the snows.

Thanksgiving gift to you all comes from a young Hodgkin’s lymphoma survivor writing at true beauty, never hurries.

I’m still breathing.

For some reason as cancer patients, dates and specific times of the year during our illness are so incredibly important to us.  Looking back towards the day we were diagnosed, when our treatment started, when/if we hit our first remission, transplant dates.  This in turn spills into big life changes as well, when I left this job, when I started this grad school program, when I started that grad school program 😉 When I moved from Florida… When I moved from Boston… When I moved back to Boston… When I moved home, to good old Doylestown Pennsylvania.

There are so many endings and beginnings in our journey and part of our moving forward process is grieving over the past, so we are allowed to enjoy the future.  This November, marks two incredibly brutal, life-changing, euphoric, challenging, progressive, loving and memorable years. Two Novembers ago at 87lbs I made the decision to leave Boston, my Grad Program, my life to come home and be cared for by the most amazing mothers in the world. I packed my bag, and left behind a life I dreamed of.  And in an instant I felt my future vanish, the rug pulled out from under me, and a life now lost.

Coming home signified that I was too sick. Too sick in fact to hardly shower, walk to the bathroom, or eat. Coming home meant treatment was not working, the disease was progressing, and an uncertainty of time, my time.  You can ask some of my best friends how deeply heartbreaking these months were for me, as they became heartbroken as well, thinking  they might need to schedule flights to come home and say their goodbyes. Their final goodbyes.

Two years, a life time ago, and a life lost somehow has been an entirely new life gained.  I can not tell you how this happened besides the caring and nurturing of friends, family, and an oncology team that never gave up on me. But, it did. Two years later and in a few short months I will be graduating from this grad program, I am not only able to walk, but run miles.  I not only shower, but I intern, celebrate life with friends, and eat, eat and eat.

We hold these dates so close to us, these months that symbolize pieces of our lives.  We tuck them away so delicately in our hearts that we know when the foliage changed two years ago, or five years ago, or ten years ago — we remember where we were, and we stop to take in the moment now to see where we are.

As cancer patients these dates, times, months, memories are so important and vital to our identity and to our souls because they are the moments in which we changed.  They are the moments that molded us into the people we are today.  These were the moments we felt the purest pain and still begged to be here. And these are the moments that although we couldn’t do much, we had to, no matter what: continue to breathe.

And for some of us,
those few lucky ones,
myself included.
We still are.

Five years ago, two years ago, and today so much has changed that I could never even justify it with  words.  But for all the change, evolution, moments and memories, one thing continues to hold true…

I’m still breathing.
(and you are too…)

And this November I can’t think of anything I am more grateful for, than that.

Sending love, light and tons of good health to all of you,
Wishing you all the most wonderful Thanksgiving.
And here’s to lots, and lots of breathing.


~from true beauty, never hurries.


About Dennis Pyritz

Dennis W. Pyritz, RN, BA, BSN, has been a cancer nurse since 1987 and a cancer and bone marrow transplant survivor since 2004. In December 2001 he was diagnosed with t-cell prolymphocytic leukemia (T-PLL), a rare aggressive form of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). Dennis was treated with the then new monoclonal antibody, alemtuzumab (Campath) as this disease has a median survival of 7.5 months. He achieved a 26 month remission but relapsed in February 2004. He was retreated with Campath and went into a second remission. In August 2004 he underwent an allogeneic peripheral blood stem cell transplant with his brother, Mark, as donor. Dennis has remained in remission since - a near miracle. Throughout his career as cancer nurse and patient, Dennis has had the opportunity to speal to both lay and professional groups. Dennis has spoken on cancer topics and survival issues across the country as well as in the United Kingdom, Norway, Austria, Portugal, Honduras, Panama, Guatemala, Trinidad, United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Cyrpus, Israel, and India.


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