Wine Racks and the Mystery of Survival

I think I got the racks as a Christmas present in 2000. I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma the day after Thanksgiving that year, then started chemotherapy soon after (I think three to four days a week). When I put them together, I didn’t know what to think. Will I not live long enough to use them, or might I have them around for many years? It was a vote of confidence in a future I wasn’t sure I’d have.

I would undergo many cancer treatments afterward. I went in and out of remission fairly quickly, but remission number three started in 2003 and hasn’t ended. No one can predict where they’ll be in 20 years or what they’ll be doing, but it’s even more of a crap shoot when you have cancer.

So many bottles have come and gone. The racks and the rest of our stuff moved from Connecticut to Pennsylvania. My daughter grew up, graduated college, and moved out of the house. Jobs have come and gone (mostly gone, it seems). My brother and father died of cancer. My marriage is the glue that’s kept me and my life in one piece over the years.

In the past 22 years, there’s been a technological revolution. The economy rises and falls. There are some jobs now that few of us would’ve imagined 22 years ago. Some jobs that employed many no longer exist. Politics has drastically changed, possibly heading off a cliff.

Historically, not long ago, a cancer diagnosis was a death sentence for nearly everyone getting it. Millions have died of and survived cancer. Treatments have improved, and as more of us outlive our cancer our healthcare system has a better grasp of what survivors need.

So here we are, me and my wine racks, nearly 22 years later. I know why they’re here. I’m not sure why I’m here. My ball landed on the right number in the great cosmic roulette game we call life. As the Talking Heads asked, “Well, how did I get here?”

If you’re undergoing treatment, I can’t guarantee you’ll have a happy ending too. It’s easy for me to write, but I will anyway. You can spend weeks researching what to do, posting endless questions on social media seeking advice, and praying until you lose consciousness, whatever works for you. But you need to make the best decisions you can and hope for the best. That’s what cancer treatment boils down to.

As my first of several oncologists told me, whatever your cancer or its stage, whatever odds of survival you’ll find in your research, you’ll be cured or you won’t. I hope you’ll be around twenty years from now, maybe drinking some wine, wondering what I can’t figure out. Why did I make it while others didn’t?

Rodney Warner is a freelance writer, cancer survivor, and cancerphobe.

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