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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.

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

Comments

  • djohnson105
    7 months ago

    It is amazing to see how you have risen above the numbness and are finding productivity! What a blessing! I believe that God fearfully and wonderfully made every single one of us (Psalm 139:13-16) and never intended for these diseases to stand in the way of us using our skills and gifts. I am praying for you and am excited for all that you will accomplish!

  • Jim Smith moderator author
    7 months ago

    @djohnson105 I appreciate your prayers. Though our goals may have to change as our condition does, we still need to keep on keeping on. It sounds like you too are finding your way through this thing called cancer. Good for you. Godspeed.

  • Ann Harper moderator
    5 months ago

    I love your saying – and we do have to keep on keeping on!

  • pfh724
    7 months ago

    I was diagnosed 3 years ago with cll ! No treatment so far ! My dad lived till 92 with cll! I like to read what other people have to say ! I am 72 do not know what to expect! I am still working

  • Ann Harper moderator
    7 months ago

    Good for you! I think you have to go with your gut. I hope you surpass your dad. Good luck to you.

  • Jim Smith moderator author
    7 months ago

    Still working at 72! I’d say you’re doing pretty well. The most important thing is to not let cancer define who you are. Sounds like you’ve figured that out already.

  • Ann Harper moderator
    7 months ago

    Absolutely- cancer should never define who you are.

  • Anthony Carrone moderator
    7 months ago

    Hey @pfh724 – I’m glad to hear you’re liking the articles from other advocates. How have you been feeling lately?

  • meag
    7 months ago

    We’re given a giift. One we didn’t ask for, but one we can find very satisfying to receive-that being our new view of life. What skills and talents that we hold will only show a greater sensitivity. Your photography will surly benefit allowing others to see life in a better light.

  • Jim Smith moderator author
    7 months ago

    Thank you so much. Till now I have seen my photography as only a commercial thing–a way to make money (Real Estate photog, etc.) You have encouraged me to give it a better purpose. Take care.

  • meag
    7 months ago

    This is what i needed to hear. Thank you! Having been diagnosed MALT lymphoma stage 4 in lung, I too am suffering through a “watch and Wait” period. You’d think,how lucky! no treatment. Yes, that is true, yet when newly diagnosed, you want to get rid of it! The waiting for 3 months was hard, being caught up with your adjustment of who you are now-a cancer patient-What does the future hold? Your friend’s advise has been heard loud and clear! Every moment is an opportunity waiting to be filled.

  • Ann Harper moderator
    7 months ago

    How nicely said!

  • Jim Smith moderator author
    7 months ago

    This cancer thing can be very hard to deal with. Just try to remember, you are not just a cancer patient. You are still you.

  • Ann Harper moderator
    7 months ago

    I say a new and improved version!

  • pfh724
    7 months ago

    Hearing other people who have cll is very helpful

  • Jim Smith moderator author
    7 months ago

    It helps me too. I feel less alone.

  • RCGJR
    7 months ago

    Frankl’s book has been part of me ever since I read it in college (in the 70s). It has shaped my attitude about dealing with relapsed AML. I agree about the goals, but they can be tough to keep in focus as the ground underneath keeps shifting.

  • Jim Smith moderator author
    7 months ago

    Looks like we’re about the same age; I was in college in the 70’s too. You’re right, it’s hard sometimes to stick with a goal when your health keeps changing. I guess the best we can do is shift our goals when the ground shifts. I hope you the best.

  • Ann Harper moderator
    7 months ago

    My goal is to beat cancer and then help others do the same. I try to enjoy my life everyday and am looking forward to retirement! I’m glad your moving on with your life as nd finding purpose. I’ll have to add the blood to my must read list. Thanks for sharing.

  • Jim Smith moderator author
    7 months ago

    Thanks for reading my post. That’s an excellent goal. Helping others not only benefits them but also gives you your purpose in life. Enjoy the book.

  • Ann Harper moderator
    7 months ago

    I’m glad you were able to read my post. I just reread it and noticed all the typos.

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