Prince Bernhard, the second son of Princess Margriet of the Netherlands and Professor Pieter van Vollenhoven, said in an interview with AD that he was glad he wasn’t aware of his chances of surviving the lymphoma he was diagnosed with in 2013. He had already had plenty of experience with hospitals, being diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in 2002.
“Because of Crohn’s disease I already found myself in situations I had hoped never to be in. I would be walking through a hospital and would always think, ‘there are much worse thinghs, like cancer.’ It’s such a loaded word. Even at our own house, just before I became ill, two fathers at my kids’ school died of the disease. We can and could talk to our children about it and have always made it clear that it could end badly. That was always in the back of their minds. Benjamin was once with Annette in the car and said, ‘Daddy is dying.’ I don’t think the children will ever forget this period.”
The worst time for them, he said, was Christmas 2013. Prince Bernhard had just undergone a stem cell transplant in Amsterdam. “The worst part is not being able to be there for your family. I can still see us sitting in that hospital room. One plastic Christmas tree in the corner. No Christmas dinner, but a sandwich with chocolate sprinkles.”
Prince Bernhard never asked his surgeon, who also happened to be a friend, about his chances of surviving the disease. “I knew I had lymphoma and which kind, but I didn’t know what it meant. I could tell by the surgeon’s face that it was serious and bad. I thought I am already not sleeping well; I’d rather not ask about something I don’t want to know. Looking back, I only had a 20% chance. I am glad that I didn’t know that at the time.”
Prince Bernhard is doing well right now and is still undergoing bi-monthly checks. He is grateful to be able to give back with his sporting event Hollandse (Dutch) 100, which consists of ten kilometres of skating, following by 90 kilometres of cycling. “It’s a positive event but also loaded with the stories of people who didn’t have the luck I had.” The event is part of his Lymph&Co foundation.