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Finding Out at 25

I’m not sure I still understand how drastic and life-changing finding out I had blood cancer was when I was 25 years old. Well, wait, actually it took 2 months after my initial diagnosis for a completely different doctor, my second opinion doctor, to tell me that it WAS actually a type of blood cancer.

So, on the exact date of my 25th birthday, I was told that I had a blood cancer that was inhibiting my body’s production red blood cells. Just like any other person’s 25th birthday, right? Totally normal at 25 to be told that your body has decided to stop working properly and basically slowly deprive you of oxygenated blood. Happy freaking birthday. NOT.

That was my reality and that is what happened. From that day forward, I was a cancer patient.

It’s a present that just keeps on giving

Not only was being diagnosed with blood cancer at 25 upsetting, I was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome deletion 5q, which is most commonly diagnosed in men over the age of 65! And, hey, I don’t check either of those boxes.

So, questions, endless questions, flooded into my brain. Why me? How me? Did I do something wrong? Is it because I never ate vegetables growing up? I went down that dreadful spiral of how did this happen? WHY ME? My brain screamed, “why, why, how, when?” And the doctor gives me the reassuring answer of, “We will never know why this happened to you, Elle. There is absolutely no way we can figure it out.” Oh, phew, ok, that totally answers my concern – NOT!

Learning to focus on what I can do

But, eventually realizing that that would be the only answer I would ever get, that there was never going to be a way to know why my 5th chromosome’s long arm decided to mutate and cause myelodysplastic syndrome, I resolved to never ever ask that question again. I could easily and endlessly agonize over it, think about it day and night, become totally obsessed but all it would probably do is create an ulcer. So, to this very day, I don’t ask why this happened to me. Rather, I focus on what I could and can do for myself in the moment… what I could and can do to keep myself as healthy as possible despite the MDS.

Just know that everyone asks the questions “how, why, when?” and everyone obsessively thinks about them. But, what I have learned, is that it is much healthier and more hopeful to let those unanswerable thoughts go and to focus on what you can do to improve your situation. Positive thought and self-motivation will save your sanity!

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.


    4 months ago

    I was diagnosed with Myelodysplastic Syndrome in 2017 at the age of 61. I also have the 5q deletion and have wondered many times why my blood cells are immature. Best of luck to you and take care of yourself!

  • Ann Harper moderator
    7 months ago

    I also asked what caused my cancer and was told basically the same thing. I still feel that if I knew, maybe I could help myself. But also like you, I’m doing all that I can to be as healthy as I can. Good luck to you.

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