I know most of you visit Art & Business of Motion to read about our little world of television branding. I hope you will indulge me a step away from that for a moment, as today is a significant milestone in my life. Though some (friends, colleagues, clients) know parts of this story, not many knew the totality of the situation. Today- I would like to share a little bit of it with you.
About 5 years ago, on a beautiful (and not particularly noteworthy) Thursday afternoon, I was having lunch at my favourite little Korean with my friend Sharon. After about 10 minutes of catching up, she made mention of a slight lump on the left side of my neck. After telling her it was probably nothing (and that I was too busy to get it checked out) she convinced me otherwise. After a week of somehow fitting in multiple checkups, a biopsy, CT-scan and lots of bloodwork into my overcrowded schedule, I was asked back to the doctor.
I was expecting at worst some sort of freaky condition, a byproduct of a cruel travel schedule that I had been charting between LA and New York. “It’s cancerous”. “It’s cancer”. “You have cancer”. I don’t remember exactly what order everything was said, but I remembered the next part clearly: “You’ll need to start chemo & radiation Monday, and you will be unable to take care of yourself for about a year”. “Oh and you’ll need a feeding tube, we’ll get that put in on Friday“.
So there you have it. On Monday I was living in a bubble, and by Friday I was to have a tube hanging from the left side of abdomen. I was diagnosed with a very rare form, Nasopharangeal Cancer- it was hiding in the middle of my head, right in the back of my left nasal canal. My treatment was explained, 6 rounds of bonecrushing chemotherapy, concurrent with 35 rounds of daily targeted IMRT radiation to the head. I made a few calls, including one to my boss- I would be quitting the job, the career, the life that I loved- to fight this thing.
The first two months were pretty unremarkable. I was kicking ass. Then the “treatment” really ramped up-. I have been a fiercely independent person my entire life, anyone who knows me can attest to this. In month three, I was bald, weak, and confined to a bed. As a fit young man, I was unable to walk on my own and had to eat via feeding tube as the entirely of my mouth was bloodied and swollen. I didn’t eat food or drink liquids orally for about 6+ months.
I was admitted to Cedars Sinai multiple times with pneumonia, and on Thanksgiving I was rushed to the emergency room with severe complications. They have this nifty pain threshold range “Tell me how much pain you’re in, 1-10”. I was usually floating around an 8. Thankfully, I was on a synthesized heroin for pain as well as anti-pain patches that work like nicotine patches, and oral morphine droplets, strawberry flavoured (I kid not).
They weren’t sure if I was going to make it that night. (I certainly wasn’t planning on giving up.) After an extended stay in intensive care, I was let out to finish the rest of my (horrific) treatment. A few months later, I had the two tubes removed from my body, one from my left arm, one from my abdomen. I finished treatment in the early spring, and we all hoped for the very best, well everyone else did. I had a more realistic view of my future. I would be prepared for the news, good or bad. I had lost a lot of friends along the way, and I was certainly not going to sugarcoat my own future.
So on March 28, 2007, exactly 4 years ago today, I was called back into that same fateful white office. “You’re in remission”. The doctors proceeded to go into the ifs, ands, and buts of it all, but I really wasn’t listening. I started thinking about all the beautiful foods I would soon be eating (scrambled eggs, sushi, and clam chowder- glorious clam chowder). I wasn’t able to walk on my own yet, but I began imagining being able to drive a car again. The human condition is so incredible that way- it refuses to extinguish itself. I spent the next several months in rehabilitation. And as many of you know, from there I made the move to London where I am now settled, a whole new life, more than I could have ever wished for on that fateful Thursday.
Life has returned to some sense of normality, but I’m not the same man. The work I do has a whole new meaning to me, both personally and professionally. I appreciate every moment, and don’t remember the last time I was this happy. And today- I have a particularly extra bit to be happy about. Thank you for letting me share it with you.
There are so many people to thank. For fear of missing anyone, I will just send out a sincere thank you and my eternal gratitude to each and every person that got me through it. -Denny