If it takes a village to raise a child, at a minimum it takes a committed and supportive team to assist someone through four battles with cancer and the physical and emotional recovery from a heart transplant. And I have been blessed beyond measure with just such a team.
It begins with my parents
When I went off for my very first biopsy more than 25 years ago, it was my mother who sat with me in the recovery room. And when the surgeon came in to give us the "wait-and-see" pep talk just a few minutes after I'd awakened, it was the two of us together who recognized the look on his face as one of unusual concern.
All throughout my many diagnoses, the surgeries, the transplants, the chemotherapy, and all of the ups and downs, my parents have been constants. They have cried with me on the worst of days. They have celebrated with unqualified joy on the best of days. And from that very first day, until this one, they have walked by my side both as duty, and as pleasure.
"No man succeeds without a good woman behind him. Wife or mother, if it is both, he is twice as blessed."
A partner in all things
I am twice blessed with smart, strong, compassionate, loving, and supportive women in my life. My wife, Carrie, joined the ride after my four battles with cancer were in the rear-view mirror, but with the uncertain prospect of the heart transplant very much an immediate reality. Yet she did so willingly, and without complaint or reservation. It takes a special character to voluntarily take on my closet full of baggage and I thank god every day that she did.
She was with me as my heart began to fail, requiring a pacemaker and defibrillator. We were together when the call came in from UCLA Medical Center that my new heart was ready and waiting for me. She was the last person I said good bye to before heading into surgery. And she was the first person I hugged after crossing my triathlon finish line.
My wife - my best friend - has been my caretaker, my psychiatrist, my sounding board, my editor, my coach, my training partner, my travel agent (and companion), my cheerleader, my champion, and my confidant. She is the best thing that has ever happened to me.
To be rich in friends is to be poor in nothing
For most of my life I have been different from my friends (and not in all of the usual ways that statement is made.) My high school friends, many of whom I am still very close with today, had to figure out how to be teenage support to a classmate suddenly diagnosed with cancer. That is not an easy task for your typical 17- and 18-year old. But luckily for me, most of my friends managed to find the balance between supporting me, and letting me be normal. I'll always feel that debt.
All throughout the challenges I've faced, different friends have stepped up when I needed them most. I was 23, desperately sick and stuck at home, so a friend brought the festivities of "Taco Tuesday" to me. Another friend sat in my hospital room for over hour, just talking baseball. Never once mentioning that I was sick. A week later, however, sensing my mood correctly, as only friends can do, he spent an hour making fun of my bald head. He didn't treat me as fragile, and it made me stronger. And feel normal.
And because of my involvement with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, and its Team In Training program specifically, I have dozens and dozens of friends who are happy to step up as training partners, fundraising assistants, book promoters, wine drinking companions, and all other means of entertainment and medical support.
I was once asked in an interview, "Are you the unluckiest person in the world?"
My answer: "Absolutely not. I am, without a doubt, the luckiest."
Kyle Garlett, Adversity Consulting
Los Angeles • London
Cancer Survivor, Heart Transplant Recipient, Motivational Speaker