“You know where I am going with this, don’t you?” My doctor is on the other end of the phone discussing my recent lab work. He told me I had a high white count. “Hmmm, do I have an infection?” All my radiologic technologist background went out the window. His quiet reply was “No, I think you have leukemia.” That conversation in early October started my journey with cancer.
Let me back up to earlier in my story. I had been tired for many months prior to this phone call. I didn’t complain because I knew I needed to lose some weight, get to the gym, get more sleep, and eat better. Why should my doctor have to hear about those complaints when I needed to make some lifestyle changes? His phone call to me started as a simple review of my cholesterol, thyroid-the usual yearly suspects. Everything was ok, except one thing. My white count was high. I was in the oncologist/hematologist’s office within 24 hours. Yes, I had leukemia. Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia. CML. Now what?
To confirm my diagnosis, I had a bone marrow biopsy. Not necessarily tops on my list for how to have a good time. I was put on a chemotherapy pill to get my white count under control. The fatigue I felt while on that treatment was something I cannot describe. It was an effort to walk down the hall to go to bed. How was I going to work? When the bone marrow results confirmed CML, I was switched to a ‘targeted therapy medication’, Gleevec. Side effects have been minimal and very tolerable and I have my energy back. I will be on this for a long time….about a half-million dollars’ amount of time, actually.
I started my page on www.mylifeline.org to be the place for me to make sense out of this craziness. I have done that. I vowed to be positive and find the lessons I was to learn. (I could whine in a private journal, if necessary!) And I have learned many things! I learned that cancer is a horrible disease and it puts you on a roller-coaster of emotions. I didn’t ask for cancer. No one does. I don’t want cancer. But I have cancer. I am fortunate to have something that is manageable and responds to treatment. I have an excellent hematologist that I trust, literally, with my life. I have a great support system around me-friends and family, bosses, coworkers and strangers have all reached out to me. I am not ‘doing’ cancer alone.
Cancer isn’t always a death sentence and I learned that. I also learned since it is NOT a death sentence that I have to live. I have to enjoy. I have to savor. I still have to rest. I still have to take pills. But I am alive and enjoying every moment. Life truly is sweet. I have a great job with understanding bosses. I have a fabulous network of friends and family that are here for me. I am truly blessed. I decided in those first tumultuous days that I am a cancer survivor, not a cancer victim.
You know where I am going with this, don’t you? I am going to be fine.
Please visit me at: www.mylifeline.org/slawrence