Choose to Live

Choose to Live

A routine blood test revealed a slightly elevated white blood cell count. “No problem,” said the physician’s assistant, “it’s probably just a cold or flu bug.”

A few months later, the doctor gave me a second test and, when he didn’t like the results, he ordered yet another by the odd acronym FISH. I knew its purpose was to determine if I had leukemia but I never really thought that could happen to me. Still, I practiced in my mind how I would react if the test came back positive. Would I panic or stay cool?

Then in September 2009, the doctor pulled his chair close to me, looked directly into my eyes, and introduced me to the three words that would change my life: chronic lymphocytic leukemia.

Taking the news well…or not

Oddly, I didn’t panic. And I wasn’t making an effort to stay calm either. I was numb, dazed. It felt like I was watching the scene play out instead of actually being there. “Well,” I found myself saying, “if I’m lucky enough to have contracted a rare disease maybe I should enter the lottery since I’m so good at long odds.”

“You’re taking it well,” said the doctor, wryly raising one eyebrow. Of course, he knew my convoluted joke was a cover. I wasn’t taking it well. The disease was not rare, I was not lucky, and given whatever the Fates were up to I absolutely should NOT buy a lottery ticket.

Like a poorly written book that drags on too long before getting to the plot, it took me weeks to accept that I had a life-threatening disease. I slowly began to realize my time might be limited. Goals I’d been putting off for years could no longer wait.

It’s strange really. Every human on the planet has only a brief time to live, yet we all go on as if there will always be another day. Paul Simon wrote about that in his singularly poetic way: “So I continue to continue to pretend, my life will never end, and flowers never bend with the rainfall.”

Coming face-to-face with Leuk

I’ve come to think of leukemia as a real person who has moved into my house affecting my life and the lives of everyone in the family. I call him Leuk and he’s not a friendly guy.

But in an odd and sort of dark way, he can be a blessing; he makes us face that we won’t be here forever. Then we have a decision to make. Will it motivate us to achieve the goals we’ve been putting off or will we choose to make our days hollow by giving up and sinking into depression?

He is not going to beat me. He doesn’t control my thoughts. He doesn’t own me. Leuk might make my life shorter but I’m not going to let him define how I live. The days and years I have our mine, not his. I choose to live as full a life as possible. I hope you will too.

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

View Comments (9)
  • Carole McCue
    2 weeks ago

    Beautifully stated. Exactly how cancer can be be viewed. Wishing you a full and joyful life as a fellow cancer survivor.

  • Jim Smith author
    1 week ago

    Wishing you the same. Thank you for reading my post.

  • Mike Padjen
    2 weeks ago

    Jim, so true. It’s a shame that it sometimes takes a health crisis to realize our time needs to be better spent and enjoyed. I’ve been forced to take early retirement due to complications from Multiple Myeloma, but am using my time to a much better extent; loving and sharing…

  • Jim Smith author
    1 week ago

    Good for you, Mike. I took early retirement too and hope to live a more full life even if shorter than usual. Thanks for reading my post.

  • bluchs
    2 weeks ago

    Thank You Jim
    I agree with you.
    I have B-Cell lymphoma, now terminal.
    I had planed on a long and wonderful retirement, and well that will not happen, now I am just happy to still be here.
    But knowing that my life is coming to an end, has given me time to appreciate the things I do have, Family and friends, I am able to say my goodbye’s, unlike if I were say hit by a truck and killed?
    So I also choose to live as full a life as I possibly can.
    Thank You for your inspirational thoughts

  • Jim Smith author
    2 weeks ago

    Thanks, bluchs, but it’s you that is the inspiration. Godspeed.

  • Yolanda Brunson-Sarrabo moderator
    2 weeks ago

    It’s interesting how these unwanted visitors like cancer, wake us up to take notice what life is truly about. It’s a harsh awakening but oddly enough a blessing for some. Thank you for this great post!

  • Jim Smith author
    2 weeks ago

    I’m glad you enjoyed the post. And you are right. It’s possible to find blessings in almost anything. (Although I have to admit CLL is one blessing I could do without. : )

  • Yolanda Brunson-Sarrabo moderator
    2 weeks ago

    Totally agree!

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