Dear Warrior Patient,
There are claims by patients and survivors of cancers that it changes them. Others state it’s the best thing that’s happened to them. I can’t agree with the latter, but it definitely changes you…for better and (not ‘or’) worse.
First of all, what comes to mind is the fragility of life. You may think you’re invincible but no one is immune to the uncertainties and foibles of life. Up to the time I got diagnosed with CMML (primary diagnosis) and AML, I was pretty secure in thinking my state of health would remain the same and maybe get even better – WRONG!! I was extremely healthy, adhered to a strict vegan diet, was physically active, had no chronic illnesses, on no prescription meds and could claim I was never, officially, a patient.
Now, I have vulnerabilities where there were none before. Maybe a more honest thought is, I now acknowledge vulnerabilities that probably always existed. Major illness and tragedy bring you to your knees…leukemia and stem cell transplant did that to me.
If you were to ask how leukemia and stem cell transplant changed my life, there are plenty. Instead of lamenting about what I lost, I choose to focus on what I gained. And the same choice is yours. You’re not ignoring that you may have lost some of your physical abilities, but controlling how you deal or cope with these losses.
This is my short list of what I gained…
–Closer ties with those important to me.
–What was important to me is much less so, particularly related to career.
–I am more understanding of certain situations, and less understanding and accepting of certain human behaviors. I know, it’s a conundrum, and an interesting self observation. My expectations of others are much higher than they used be prior to leukemia and the stem cell transplant.
–Enjoy the simpler things in life…like a good meal, a walk around the neighborhood, a good laugh, a good movie.
–Gratitude is truly honest. I mean, it’s not just rhetoric. I feel this throughout my entire body and mind, and truly am grateful.
–More honesty in my communications in my personal life. I haven’t had the opportunity to observe this in a professional setting, but I suspect my style may change just a little?
–See the world with ‘new’ eyes. I experience a greater sense of wonder, particularly at
natural beauty and the goodness of strangers. Let me tell you a story…early in my stem cell transplant recovery, I wasn’t doing so well, physically or emotionally. Riding down in the elevator from the transplant clinic to go home, it must have showed to others in the elevator. As we were approaching our car in the parking lot, a woman exiting called out…
“Hi…what’s your name?”
I said, “Who me…Marti.”
“I’m going to pray for you, Marti.”
And that was that. I vaguely remember this woman was in the elevator with me but hadn’t paid much attention (I was too busy thinking about myself…lol). BUT, this simple gesture by a complete stranger made me feel good and grateful for her kindness.
–I used to cringe when I saw acts of physical harm and violence inflicted on animals and people. Now, I’m hypersensitive to these situations.
–Good food has always been enjoyable to me, now it’s even more important! I no longer am vegan, but do control the amount of dairy and animal proteins. When you can’t eat because of disease or health condition, you tend to think and dream about food constantly!
–I am kinder to myself by being less strict with my diet and keeping a looser ‘productive’ schedule.
–In your circle of friends, a serious illness weeds out those who truly are your friends from acquaintances. Some friends remain your friends, other friends become acquaintances, and others you just let go. Then new friends fill those spaces…ones that reflect the ‘new’ you. You find you don’t want to waste your time with fair weather ‘friends’.
–I always longed for curly or wavy hair…now I have it and it’s natural.
–Loosing a few unwanted pounds was tough before leukemia and the transplant, but afterward? It was so easy because I couldn’t eat.