Running To Verses Running From
Last updated: May 2023
Ever feel like you are running from blood cancer and it keeps catching up? Since being diagnosed with leukemia in 2011 I have found myself outmaneuvering, outthinking (if that’s a term), and all-out running from this disease. Figuratively speaking, it’s been a marathon, and it keeps catching up.
Trying to stay ahead of leukemia
When leukemia caught up to me, despite all my efforts, things became acute. Treatment changes. Medication reviews. Tests, scans, trials and errors.
Among all this scrambling and intense confusion, there was a feeling of utter chaos. It left a mark, a constant reminder of the struggle. Some side effects become permanent.
Need for constant vigilance
There is a constant vigilance to fighting blood cancer. It can be mentally and emotionally exhausting to deal with the uncertainty, the treatments, and the failures. There are times of panic and exhausted rest.
It has been tempting to hyper-focus on the negative. To fight, flight, freeze, or fawn in the face of an incurable cancer. To pay closest attention to all those things I wanted to avoid.
I had been told that a full molecular response was a goal, but a very rare outcome. I decided to ignore the last part. I was told that there was a 30% chance I would live past 5 years. I decided to ignore that too.
Instead of running away, run towards something else
In the solitude of treatment, I realized that I am so done with running away. I am so exhausted from it catching up time and again. I don't want to run away anymore. but maybe I can decide to run towards something better despite all odds. What would that look like?
To avoid that hyper-focusing, I tried to become detached from it. When I found myself doing it I tried to step outside of it. To become a casual observer somehow. To take in what is around me and focus on my breathing instead. I looked for things around me that could take my mind off the cancer experience.
Ignoring the odds
I realized that twice I achieved a full molecular response, and here I am still alive and kicking after 12 years. There was power in ignoring the odds. My focus began to change from running away from the possible darkest outcomes, to running to the things that mean the most to me.
For me that looks like being a kid again. I relearned how to play. I looked for experiences that give me a break from all this cancer stuff. I realized that expression is the opposite of depression which is one of the reasons I write to you now.
Focusing on what I could do for myself rather than what cancer was doing to me became empowering. I began to feel gratitude for the little things. It banished self doubt and worry. Running to the little things gave me peace, optimism and contentment. That means more to me than anything leukemia can throw at me.
Planting the seeds of optimism
Today I still find it difficult to not let blood cancer into my head. I have my bad days, and my better days, and some of the best days of my life. In between all of that I have planted the seeds of optimism and I am tending them as often as I can. I got to know myself a little better and gave myself permission to enjoy myself whenever I could. I actively looked for opportunities no matter how small.
So I ask you, my fellow cancer patients, was there a time in your treatment journey when the little things became more important? Let me know in the comments below. Thanks so much for reading.
What blood cancer were you diagnosed with?
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