On Thursday, John Hyland was at the hospital for his regular round of tests.
“There’s a lot of flu going around,” he remembers his doctor telling him. “It’s best for you to avoid all crowds for the next couple of weeks.”
Hyland said he and his wife Kristin glanced down, shook their heads, and thought: That’s not going to work.
On Saturday, Hyland presided as Grand Marshal of the Morris County St. Patrick’s Parade, before huge throngs on a gloriously spring-like day. Only happiness seemed contagious, and nobody was more ecstatic than the man of the hour.
Last year at this time, Hyland had relinquished the Grand Marshal honor to focus on a bone marrow transplant. He is battling Chronic Myelomonocytic Leukemia, a byproduct of the chemotherapy that saved him from Acute Leukemia in 2010.
“Yesterday really was a magical day, for Morristown, for the Irish, and certainly for our family. You couldn’t have wished for a nicer day or a better parade,” said Hyland, 49.
“Looking back on the events of the last year, it couldn’t have been scripted in a nicer way, from where I was a year ago.”
The entire Hyland clan savored the day; Hyland estimated as many as 50 relatives came, some from as far as Virginia. His mom, former Morris Township Mayor Kathleen Ginty Hyland–herself a former parade Grand Marshal–was with him on the reviewing stand.
(His late father, former Morris Freeholder Patric Hyland, was a founder and president of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick.)
After marching and reviewing all the floats and bands, Hyland and his wife Kristin followed their two-bagpiper escort team on a whirlwind tour of Morristown pubs, private parties and a celebration at the Irish American Association in Wharton. The couple finally landed at Grasshopper Off the Green around 1 am on Sunday.
By Sunday afternoon, neither Kristin nor Hyland kids Kelsey, 17, Patric, 15, or Kieran, 11, had the energy to pry the sporty Grand Marshal top hat from John Hyland’s head.
“I’m still riding the wave,” he said, despite the family’s exhaustion. “We’re like zombies.”
‘GREAT ENERGY’ AND HOPE
The role of Grand Marshal includes weeks of public appearances preceding the parade.
Hyland said a highlight was the Grand Marshal reception at the Madison Hotel, where some 450 people toasted his health, and he publicly thanked his family for standing by him.
At the parade, he was struck by the crowd’s great energy. “I saw more young kids at that parade than ever before. It was a high-energy day.”
Hyland can use that boost. The former Iron Man triathlete has been in energy conservation mode since his transplant on April 3, 2015. He said he felt better on parade day than he has felt for the last year, but noted he’s still only at about 90 percent of his former vigor.
“It’s going to take a little more time,” said Hyland, who has helped raise more than $1 million for cancer research.
Doctors recently corrected complications
involving his adrenal glands, he said. For now, he is limited to light workouts, and looks forward eventually to resuming his duties as managing director of the Private Advisor Group.
Still, the parade excitement is a quantum leap from the anxiety of a year ago, when Hyland said his attention was trained on “my health and survival.”
If there is a takeaway for others facing leukemia, the 2016 Grand Marshal said it is this:
“I think hope is probably the single greatest thing that gets people through these times, believing that you can get healthy again.
“It really came down to the people around me–my family, my loved ones, all the support and motivation they gave me. Those are the things that are really important.”