Find Your Purpose

Living with cancer sucks.

There, I said it.

I remember when I only had to deal with the occasional cold or flu. Where the heck did leukemia come from? I used to work at a job I loved. I went boating in the islands. I played in a band. I had goals, plans. I had a life.

Now what?

Have you ever felt like that? I did.

When we have leukemia, it’s easy to start slipping away even before we actually start slipping away.

We can develop what I call the “What’s-the-use” syndrome: I should take a walk but, what’s-the-use. I could gas up the boat and put it in the water but, what’s-the-use. We could invite people over but…

Advice from a friend

When I first learned of my leukemia I asked a friend how she dealt with her breast cancer. After a mastectomy and a lot of chemo she became cancer free. But it was a tough fight. I asked her what advice she might have for me.

She said to eat well before going into chemo and then during treatment treat food as if it were medicine–eat even when nothing tastes good. But her most important advice was to have short-term and long-term goals.

I admit I felt a little guilty listening to her when my CLL was only in the wait and watch stage.

Going numb

I didn’t have any symptoms back then so what did I do? I went numb, shut down. Then when other difficult personal events happened on top of the leukemia I got angry, really angry, and pretty much gave up.

But the limitations I thought I had were just that – thoughts. None of it was real. My goals weren’t dead, my attitude was.

Today I get tired and have to rest sometimes but despite that I’m getting more done than ever. Being retired gives me time for photography and writing. How cool is that? I’m practicing my drums with hopes of starting a new band. Next summer I’ll be boating around the San Juan Islands in Washington. I’m getting the Honey-Do list done. (Well, maybe not that last one; she keeps adding things to the list.) I’m even doing my least favorite thing: exercising.

Finding and setting goals

Now, I know not everyone can do everything they’d like. We’re all at different stages with our cancer. But we can always adjust our goals to our situation. The point is to have a goal. Even if it’s just to spend more time with our family. That, of course, is the most important goal of all.

In his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl, a psychologist and holocaust survivor, wrote about his experiences in Nazi concentration camps. He discovered that the prisoners most likely to make it through were those who found meaning, a purpose, to their existence.

So what are your goals? What is your purpose? Feel free to comment below. I’d love to hear your ideas. And, by the way, read that book.

By providing your email address, you are agreeing to our privacy policy.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Join the conversation

Please read our rules before commenting.