a woman releasing a letter into the air and it floating away

Dear MDS

Write a letter to my blood cancer? Well, why not? I once attended a summer workshop for teachers where we wrote letters to ourselves, two months into the future. We addressed envelopes, and my letter arrived in the mail eight weeks later. My letter listed activities I had learned during the week that I wanted to try with my class. I reminded myself, don't get so bogged down with all of your special education paperwork. Put your students first, I had insisted. I kept that letter until I retired.

Dear MDS,

Why are you here?

I read that tobacco smoke contains at least 70 cancer-causing chemicals. I never smoked. Okay, I puffed on a couple of cigarettes during high school when I briefly tried to be a cool girl. Then I realized that I didn't feel cool standing by the back of beautiful Will Rogers High in 1972, where they called it the Smoke Hole!

Did I eat the wrong foods?

I have heard celebrities preach about how they eat only fresh organic foods, never anything processed. "You poison your body with sugar!" a movie star scolded the world. Years later, that same celebrity admitted to having a substance abuse problem. Oh, yes, snorting cocaine was so much healthier than eating an occasional candy bar! Stop acting like the diet police! I  understand that when we eat only junk food, we feel like junk.

When did you start?

My oncologist told me that I had myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) on June 2, 2017. Just my luck to get something no one understood! I had to learn how to pronounce it, spell it, and explain it. MDS, when did you take over my bone marrow and cause it to fail?  Do you have to send out those immature blood cells called blasts? Fall 2016, fatigue hit me like a ton of bricks. I woke up every morning tired, so I knew it was time to retire at the end of the school year.

The hurry-up watch, wait, and worry!

You make me anxious, MDS. I have been on "watch and wait" for three years now.  I have viewed webinars and learned a lot about you. When I have a complete blood count every three months, I study those blood levels the same way I once studied my students' reading test scores. If the blasts increase, I will begin taking Revlimid.

I read from a chart that I have about eight more years to live. Someday, I will throw darts at that chart! I used to tell parents of my students when we reviewed I.Q. test results, "This score is just a number on a page. It does not predict the future." I will follow my advice and let God decide when it's my time to leave the planet.

MDS, this is what I have learned.

  1. I have to get plenty of sleep and eat foods that give me energy.
  2. I can remain active, but I have to pace myself. If someone gets upset because I have to decline a request, that's unfortunate. My health is more important.
  3. I am stronger than I thought. I CAN deal with you, but I wish you weren't here!



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