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From Fearful to Ferocious

I was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia in 2011. I can honestly say that at that time, the fear of this disease rendered me speechless. My family doctor gave me the news, and I had little to say. My doctor remarked that my reaction was unexpected. Truth is, I was frozen in fear.

Up to that point, my only knowledge of leukemia was that it was a rare disease, people died from it, and there was no cure. I thought of my children, my family, my friends, and my workplace. I would be letting everyone down. I would be a burden to everyone I cared about. I would leave them in the harshest of ways creating a lasting trauma for those I cared about the most. It was horrendous.

First fear, then anger

Then something happened. I got angry. So incredibly angry. The fear melted and boiled down. The shaky hands turned into fists. The anxiety became energy. My focus changed into steely-eyed determination. In my car, I gripped the steering wheel and my hands turned white with the effort. It wasn’t a decision as much as a feeling. I would not be the prey in this situation, I would be the predator.

Fear transformed into ferocity. I wasn’t angry at a person or a place, but a thing. The only thought in my head was that this disease starts and ends here. I didn’t know how or what to do at that moment, but being a victim was not an option. This unwelcome passenger would burn to cinders before I would let it come near the people I cared about.

Using emotional energy to find answers

In the years to follow I used this energy to find answers. How do I find a good oncologist? I scoped the doctor profiles in my area. How would I work, and receive treatment? I applied for positions with benefits and read the fine print. How do I prepare my finances? I went to non profit organizations for advice. How do I deal with symptoms and side effects and still be a productive person raising a family? I turned to my fellow blood-cancer patients like you in forums like this one for patient-to-patient knowledge.

It was like hunting a predator. I was looking for its hiding places. Its weak spot. I scoured information for its behavior and its habits. I left no stone unturned. It was in my territory now.

I kept this unwelcome passenger in the shadows. I did all my research independently. I took notes and laid plans. I didn’t want anyone’s else's beliefs about blood-cancer to influence my steely eyed resolve. This was personal.

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My anger was a catalyst

I realize that most of us look at anger as a negative emotion, an emotion with little use and a lot of negativity surrounding it. I’d like to challenge that belief. Like any emotion, how we use it is key.

Anger can be a catalyst. It can lead to an unwavering passion. It can be full of compassion for those we care for. It can be protective and loving. It can focus our attention with pinpoint accuracy. It brings results.

In the thirteen years since diagnosis I have used this anger. It has given me the energy to find solutions, to bear down on the inevitable and rise up to the challenges. It refuses to suffer fools, and simply ignores what is useless for me and my family.

Anger can be ugly if we let it, and to leukemia I show my most despicable face. Outwardly I am kind to all who help me find the path to wellness. Inwardly this ferocity burns bright.

After two full molecular responses I can say I beat it back with every fiber of my being. I am not in remission. It’s just that strong. I am still hunting for its weak spot. I’ll find it too.

Have you ever felt fear turn to ferocity when it comes to your wellness? Let me know in the comments below. Thanks so much for reading.

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