Laurence Elliott: “Nautical Distancing” and Other Great Stuff, the New Normal
My life was always fast-paced—working and playing hard with family and friends. But life has a way of letting you know who is boss and, boy, did it ever! My energy had evaporated, but I reasoned that mother time was simply slowing me down. Then came my daughter’s wedding. I only had the energy to dance to three songs, but I shrugged it off. After the wedding, I had to ask my wife, Judie, to call a taxi after walking just three blocks to our hotel. Clearly, something was wrong. Blood in my eyes and nose and pain in my feet prompted me to make an appointment with my doctor. I received blood tests and then got a call with an unexpected message: See a Hematologist Oncologist. This was November of 2019, and things were about to get even harder.
I was lucky to get an appointment for additional tests but had to wait two months for an answer. During this waiting period, I couldn’t help but run through different scenarios and even try to self-diagnose. I thought the worst, even the possibility of death. After this terrifying two-month waiting period, the ‘it’ in my head finally had a name – “Waldenstrom’s Macroglobulinemia”. I had never heard of this cancer, yet it was about to become even more complicated by the Covid-19 pandemic. “Great,” I thought. I have a rare cancer and didn’t know what to think as misinformation about the pandemic ran rampant. Nobody had a clue how to handle this infection. “What do I do with this?” I thought. My wife and I discussed how we would handle cancer and Covid-19.
My life changed drastically in 2020. I would have no immune system thanks to chemo and Rituxan treatments. In order to combat the unseen terror moving fast across our nation, my wife and I became isolated from the world and stayed put in our house. We saw NO ONE (including family)! I was even concerned to visit the hospital for treatments, but found myself alone in lobby as the place became void of the bustling crowds of humans I had come to know at the University of Pennsylvania (Penn Medicine). My fashion statement became blue rubber gloves, two masks, and a face shield. It was a terrible time to live, and many people did not heed warnings to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Finally, the winter passed, and we came out of our burrow for our big event—outside dining. We always came with our masks, knowing that others just did not get it. Dining outdoors felt like a concert, with rushing air, dancing flowers, chirping birds, and (sometimes) delicious food. I learned to stop and smell the roses. We saw things we had never noticed, heard sounds we had never listened to, and let the wonderful smells fill our minds.
I sold my car and bought a convertible to get even more air and sun. The one drawback is that I drove places with too many humans for comfort. After years of support and caring, my wife suggested that maybe it was time to “buy that boat.” “Let’s practice Nautical Distancing,” she said. I had already owned three boats and knew the hard work they required. But I listened to my wife and purchased a boat that changed our lives for the better. It sleeps four and is now our very own hotel getaway. We marvel at the sights it brings. We invite guests onboard (although only two at a time). As I write this, I realize the 2022 boat season has ended for now as we live in Philadelphia. But that just gives me one more thing to look forward to again in 2023.
Here is my point in telling you all of this: WM is a treatable cancer. My mind deals with it in a positive way. Yes, Covid is still out there and, yes, I still have Cancer. But it’s great to have hope, a place to go and a support system to carry me to the next day. I enjoy life one day at a time. My new normal—including the “Nautical Distancing on the Delaware River—is not so bad. (And yes, WM is always onboard with me).
On a side note, my daughter and son-in-law gave birth to two gorgeous babies (a boy and a girl), giving us the thrill of grandparenting over the past year and a half. My son just got engaged and we could not be happier for him and his wonderful fiancée. My wife’s daughter graduated Villanova Law School and passed the PA/NJ Bar Exam in 2022. We realize we have so much to be thankful for! Long live my WM—unless a cure is found, and I can throw it overboard!
Laurence Elliott, Diagnosed February 2020 with WM
Judie Elliott, the support that shows me the way!