My Story – Part I

OK, I was your typical Whartonite. I had my cell phone in one hand, my palm pilot in the other, zipping through Steiny-D on any given day. I had my schedule filled every night with cohort meetings and group projects; I had my power lunches and dinners to enhance my contacts. I did the whole recruiting process, and lined myself up for a nice comfy job at an investment bank. I am your typical Whartonite – production-oriented; looking toward the future and invincibleā€¦but then comes the 14th floor.

It was a blustery day in the middle of February when the doctors at the student health clinic made an emergency appointment for me to venture up to the 14th floor of the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. A week earlier I had been diagnosed with a kidney stone and four days later I was back in the hospital with a set of lymph nodes running from my shoulder to the back of my neck that protruded out like a miniature set of the Alps.

I got off the elevator at the 14th floor and was hit by a tremendous thud. My heart had just dropped as I looked at the sign in front of me- “Penn Cancer Center.” “I was invincible Art,” I said to myself, “I can’t have cancer.” Sure enough, a week later after an emergency biopsy and a few tests I had discovered I had Hodgkin’s Disease Stage IV- otherwise known as cancer of lymph nodes highly developed.

Since then I endured the rigors of a 12-week (once a week) intensive chemotherapy treatment during the school year and 5 weeks (5 days a week) of radiation therapy after graduating. All invincibility and independence was quashed under the grueling demands of the treatment. During chemo I lost feeling in my fingertips, lost the ability to taste, lost my hair, gained 15 pounds and suffered from severe fatigue, in addition to the many other symptoms. Radiation wasn’t much better. Actually, it was much worse. The radiation burned sores in my throat and stomach, as I ended up losing 25 pounds from it being too painful to eat. The radiation also burnt my hair and skin and I also suffered severe nausea. Any feelings of invincibility quickly left. Nothing makes a man more humble than spending the day with his head hanging over the seat of commode.

But through this all God was there. Despite the intense pain, the sleepless nights, the days of just wanting to die, God was there. His peace and assurance went beyond anything I can humanly describe with words. He let me see the blessing through it all. That is how I saw it and still see it. I was given so many opportunities to see God use others and myself that I am still in awe at how He operates. I have felt such humility to have been chosen to go through the whole experience.

I learned a lot of lessons through it all. One important one was the value of people. Without my family and friends in Crusade, showing the love of Christ to me, I don’t think it would have been such a blessed experience. Nothing will stay with me longer than the times when my Crusade friends showed how important and necessary people are. I’ll never forget walking into the waiting room right before my biopsy and seeing three of my Crusade brothers waiting for me in the waiting room at 6am. Then there were the overwhelming phone calls, emails and care packages I received from Crusaders. Just about every week of my chemotherapy treatments at least one Crusade member would come to keep me company and help harass the nurses. This summer when I was in extreme amounts of pain and needed a sympathetic ear, it never failed that a Crusader would call or email me to see how I was doing. Those things helped to literally keep me alive when I felt I couldn’t keep on going.

I had always prided myself on being independent and focused on getting the work done. But through this I learned the value of relationships and people. My studying, my reading, even my administrative work for Crusade, it wasn’t there for me when I was getting ready for surgery, my Crusade brothers were. So I have softened tremendously. I will always be a Whartonite. I still have the cell phone and palm pilot. I am now working on Wall Street. But my life has changed. That cell and palm are now used to order and call my brothers and sisters and see how they are doing. I am not perfect at it, but I am continuing to learn how to put people first, just like others did for me. And all it took for me was a trip to the 14th floor.

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