Reflecting on Cancer, Life and Death at my 50th High School Class Reunion

In September I went to my 50th class reunion. You might be thinking why I am writing about my Saturday night event and what does that have to do with cancer?

I’ve been to all my high school reunions except one. When we were all celebrating our 35th, someone said we should have a birthday reunion when we all turned 55, so we decided that would be a great idea. We’ve had birthday reunions for each of the great years from then on.

Our class was a close-knit class in many ways. Many friendships have stood the test of time. We had classmates who got married, and they are blessed to still be together. Several of our classmates went to Vietnam and were in Desert Storm. I didn’t realize that. I remember during the early reunions the discussions were about new jobs, houses bought, college successes, marriages and children. I’m sure some people tried to impress our colleagues with their new cars and houses. Others proudly showed pictures of their children and other achievements. Their lives were bragged and bragged to impress our classmates. But those things in the grand scheme of things don’t seem to count anymore!

Because I’ve been open about my illness and shared my experiences with CURE® on Facebook, many of my classmates made a special effort to check in with me to see how I was doing at the reunion. That was great and wonderful. Through those conversations, they told me that they also had cancer and were fighting like me. I know there were other classmates who kept their illness very private. I hope they will seek help if they need it.

We had a class of just over 400 and we lost at least 66 classmates. While we can’t find some of them, some chose not to participate and never came to a reunion. We have lost a number of classmates to physical and mental illnesses and also to tragic reasons. It was all there: heart attacks, cancer, lung disease, and even suicides. When we all saw the memorial slideshow of our deceased friends, you could have heard a pin drop. It was solemn. It was sad. It was profound.

The kind of discussions of the early reunions had changed drastically. We were no longer bragging about a new house or a new car. We talked about retirement, downsizing and travel, but also about enjoying our family and friends. Many of us felt the need to stay close because we all had the same health problems. We talked about Medicare plans and great deals for seniors. The pandemic and the presidential election have changed some friendships and that was very sad. While I’m not sure if we lost classmates to COVID-19, I suspect we did lose a few.

What a difference 50 years makes. I came home from the reunion and felt connected to some new old friends. I will keep in touch as I can always use their extra support in my fight against cancer. Hopefully I can be there for them too.

When I look to the future, I celebrate my past and my cancer journey. We all just have to keep moving forward.

For more news on cancer updates, research and education, don’t forget to subscribe to the CURE® newsletters here.

Comments are closed.