Michele is a Leukemia survivor based in Boise, Idaho. She has four kids and five grandchildren, and loves spending time with her family. Prior to diagnosis Michele and her husband were competitive dancers. She continues to dance socially and loves to travel and experience different cultures. She also loves writing, knitting and crocheting, painting, puzzles and reading. Michele wrote the following about her Leukemia story.
I am Going to Have Cancer, FOREVER??
Forever is a long time....right??
At least that is what I hoped, upon being diagnosed with Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia in February 2011; I remember feeling both frightened and determined at the same time. Scared of the unknown, yet ready to fight!
Isn't it interesting how when time is faced with an expiration date, it becomes so relevant?
I believe that one of the first things that people ask, upon being diagnosed with cancer is "How much time do I have?" I know that it was of paramount significance to me. The thoughts flying around in my mind were mostly centered around my family; my kids and my grandkids.
I could not wrap my head around the fact that I would not be around to share their lives and watch them grow. Looking back at those first few hours and days, I now realize that what was most important to me during that time, should always be forefront, in all of our minds, because let's face it, no one knows just how much time they actually have; think of the old "Run over by a bus" adage.
Fortunately for me, my diagnosis of CML, (a chronic blood cancer) had gone from a death sentence fifteen years prior, to a treatable cancer today. I will most likely never be cured, but my prognosis is excellent; as long as I adhere to my treatment plan, and see my oncologist every three months.
Yes, I must contend with daily doses of toxic medication, blood draw cancer checks every three months and the side effects that come along with the medication and the disease, but even though these things are often difficult and burdensome, they are worth it; they give me the most precious gift of all..... time.
Living with chronic cancer, for the past seven years, has not only changed my way of thinking but my way of living, as well; I am no longer able to just fly by the seat of my pants, doing whatever I want, whenever I want, without any thought given to my health, or how I may be feeling on any particular day.
But, if I listen to my body, and do not overindulge, I am able to continue doing many of the things I love. I admit that I have limitations, am slower, and cannot do what I used to do, but that does not mean I cannot still enjoy my life.
Since my greatest passion is my family, I have made it a priority to spend more time with my family and friends; I make sure to plan my visits around the grandkids soccer games, band concerts, and Christmas programs, and I carve out extra time to take each one out to lunch and shopping for their birthdays; just Nana, Papa and the birthday boy or girl. I want each and every one of them to know how very special they are, and to always remember how very much they are loved.
My second greatest passion is traveling. When I was first diagnosed with cancer, I was afraid my dreams of traveling the world, would be extinguished. They were, for a time. But now, since the cancer is under control and stable, I have begun to travel the world again. My husband and I currently have a trip planned to visit extended family and explore the northeast, later this year, and we are in the process of planning our second trip to Europe. I am so excited, I can hardly stand myself!
And my third passion? It is a passion that I never even knew existed. It is a passion that came to life, after being diagnosed with leukemia. I believe that it was born out of necessity, and it has helped to keep me sane and give my life purpose. Prior to diagnosis, I was a very shy, very private person; needless to say, all of that has changed.
Since my diagnosis, I have publicly shared my life on my blog, "Dancing and Traveling My Way Through Leukemia" and I have found that helping others makes my cancer diagnosis so much easier to bear. I am passionate about self-advocacy, and speak and write about it often. I also encourage others to learn how to live their best life, while living with a chronic illness.
Writing and speaking have become a passion that I never knew I had, and I truly believe that it is the greatest gift that CML has given me.
Right from the get-go, I realized that there was little information and less support for people living with chronic conditions, whether they were chronic cancer or some other disease. I also quickly realized how easily people are led blindly through their illness.
This course of action, to blindly believe everything you hear from your doctor, can lead to the death of a CML patient. I have often found myself in the bullpen, trying to reach out and save lives. I have spent much of my time educating others with CML and encouraging them to take an active and deliberate role in their treatment.
At times this can be exhausting, while other times I find it exhilarating; it is the successes that will keep me going, forever.......and forever is a long time, right?
There is no doubt that my diagnosis has changed my life; it has altered where I was headed and sent me stumbling in a new direction. It has changed me both inside and out, in ways that are impossible to understand or explain.
My hopes continue to become a reality, and my dreams continue to be fulfilled. I am extremely fortunate and forever grateful.
Here's to living your best life, despite its' adversities.
1) Q: What is your biggest inspiration?
A: My biggest inspiration is my mother. She suffered many struggles and tragedies in this life, yet never let them get her down. She remained kind, loving, thoughtful and optimistic despite all that she endured. She was a precious soul, and I miss her immensely.
2) Q: Who is the person (or people) who has gotten you through the most?
A: Myself; I believe that I inherited my mother's perseverance.
3) Q: While you have been going through this condition, what has been the most unexpected and rewarding thing you have experienced?
A: My desire to reach out and help others, and my willingness to step out of the shadows, into the spotlight.