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Gov. Hogan: Blessed to have support of Maryland during cancer battle

BALTIMORE, MD -- 10/1/15 -- Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan after a press conference in Reisterstown. md-hogan-cancer-p05-assaf Christopher T. Assaf/Baltimore Sun staff #0644
BALTIMORE, MD -- 10/1/15 -- Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan after a press conference in Reisterstown. md-hogan-cancer-p05-assaf Christopher T. Assaf/Baltimore Sun staff #0644 (Christopher T. Assaf / Baltimore Sun)

At the start of my administration, I had no doubt I would face big challenges in my first few months as governor — but never did I imagine cancer would be one of them. Over the last few months, I've learned a lot about the disease, and I've also been reminded of just how deeply compassionate Marylanders are.

I recently completed four months of chemotherapy to treat stage III non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. But since my diagnosis in June, my family and I have received a truly amazing outpouring of encouragement from fellow Marylanders, and cancer survivors from all around the country. I appreciate each and every prayer, letter, card and well-wish more than I can say. I read every single note, admired every prayer shawl knitted with great care, teared up over the artwork that schoolchildren had tucked into bursting envelopes, and laughed out loud about the family-owned farm in Thurmont that had artfully plowed a corn maze displaying my face, with the words "Maryland Is HoganStrong" underneath it.

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Your kindness has kept me strong and my spirits high, and it's undoubtedly one of the reasons why I'm on the road to recovery. Having a support system while undergoing cancer treatment is necessary, and I am eternally grateful.

This experience has been one of the most difficult challenges I have faced in my life. The fear, anxiety, and exhaustion that cancer causes — for patients and loved ones alike — is indescribable. However, every time my wife, Yumi, and I stepped into the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore for my treatments, we were continually reminded that we are not alone in this fight. In the faces of the children and families whom we visited in the pediatric oncology ward, I saw perseverance, faith and hope.

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And when they looked at me (and my newly bald head), well, they just saw another guy with cancer: a fellow dad, son, brother, uncle, grandfather or friend — not a governor. Young or old, black or white, rich or poor — cancer does not discriminate, and it certainly doesn't care what you do for a living or whether or not you have a state to run. All of us in the cancer ward were in it together, balancing our everyday lives and responsibilities with new and unexpected challenges: fatigue, searing pain, bouts of nausea, and losing our hair, down to our eyelashes. Their strength was a continual source of inspiration, as were the incredibly hardworking doctors, nurses and staff at UMMC who took such wonderful care of me, and who are literally saving lives every day.

The Baltimore Sun called me a "joyful warrior," and I appreciate that description. I hope that all those who follow me on this journey choose to be joyful warriors in their own lives, whether they're fighting cancer or some other battle: disability, addiction, loneliness or whatever it may be.

I don't know what the future holds, but one thing is certain: I will never stop working to make Maryland more competitive and a better place to live, work and retire.

The First Lady and I fully recognize how blessed we are to have the support of not only our family and friends, but also an entire state. And in recognizing this, we can't help but think of the thousands of other families fighting this same battle, who may not have the benefit of kind words and encouragement such as we have received.

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I humbly ask that those who continue to support me also remember the thousands of others facing seemingly insurmountable odds, who are just as deserving of your prayers, love and support. Do what you can, whether it's volunteering your time to help sick patients, making a donation to a cancer-fighting charity, preparing meals for a family in need, or simply saying a prayer. When it comes to cancer, no act of kindness is too small.

Larry Hogan is the governor of Maryland.

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