When I first wrote about Art Canning, he was a few years out of Chaney High, working at Goldman Sachs in New York City, and in the battle of his life, with Hodgkin's lymphoma cancer. Almost nine months ago, I updated his story. Chemo had failed. Radiation had failed. Even an injection of his own harvested stem cells didn't work.
His final chance, at last writing -- a stem cell injection from his brother Billy -- was rejected by his insurers.
Well, if you've been following along, or are a fan of the eternally optimistic, amazingly energetic and prayerful Canning (and, by all accounts, Canning has many -- his Web site, www.artcanning.com, has had 100,000 hits since 2000), I have news for you. The insurers came through shortly after the article ran.
On Sept. 20, Art will be taking his brother Billy out to a steak dinner at Ruth's Chris Steakhouse in Manhattan. A celebratory dinner.
In Art's own words:
" 'Happy six months old Art!' That's what you all should be saying to me. Technically, I'm 24 years old and my birthday is February 28. Truthfully, though, I was reborn six months ago when I was injected with my brother Billy's stem cells.
"To celebrate the occasion I didn't receive a cake, a card, or even a present. Instead, I had an all day affair at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. At 8:35 a.m., I was injected with radioactive insulin for my PET Scan. So much for staying radioactive-free on my birthday. At 3:45 p.m., I polished off the last drips of my ... Contrast mixture for my CT Scan. At 3:55 p.m., I was injected with the IV Contrast. So much for staying contrast-free on my birthday. ...
"... It was a tense week. I used the extra nervous energy to my advantage. In an absolutely incredible breakthrough I conquered the formerly unconquerable hill in Prospect Park on roller blades, without stopping. It was like climbing Mount Everest. The air was thin and my mind was clouded. Billy goats and sherpas climbed around me. I almost blacked out. I almost stopped. I didn't. I conquered the hill.
"But things were still tense.
"I was so anxious on Monday night at Starbucks that I couldn't do my normal reading or writing. My mind was racing around an endless track at unbearable speeds. I needed to find a worthy distraction. I shoved my shoulderbag in the car and sped to Coney Island. After a few rounds in the batting cages and in the video arcade I was able to breathe easier. And the cheese fries from Nathan's, those helped too. Tuesday was the big day.
"I was expecting the worse. Like a post-it note slapped on my forehead, a nagging pain in my lungs and along my spine had become a constant reminder of my current situation. I thought, without hesitation, the note read 'The cancer has returned.'
"I snatched the papers off the desk in the examining room. I couldn't believe what I was hearing from Dr. Perales. I read the reports myself. 'There is a normal physiologic pattern of radiotracer uptake and distribution seen throughout the remainder of various body tissues and organs with no evidence of FDG avid viable malignant tumor.'
" 'No pelvic lymphadenopathy or ascites is seen.'
" 'No enlarged mediastinal, hilar or axillary lymph nodes are seen. ...'
"Six months post-transplant and the scans are clear.
"I am not out of the woods just yet. Yes, it is great news. I couldn't be more pleased. But remission isn't declared for another six months. That means two more rounds of PET and CT scans in November and February. I'll breathe much easier then.
"Thank you for your prayers, encouragement and support. I still have a few more hills to conquer. Only with the above will I be able to do so."