My wife told me I was brave. But I don’t believe dealing with Leuk is bravery. To me, bravery is when someone knowingly puts himself in jeopardy for the sake of someone else, or for a greater cause. Even though they are afraid, they jump in the water to save a life, or pick up arms to save a country.

I didn’t choose leukemia. No brave decision was made. One day Leuk just showed up at my door – unannounced I might add!

My brother is a brave man. Although he and I may see the wars in Iraq and Afganistan diffently, I am very proud of him. He’s been over there twice and may be going back a third time. He risks his life for his country.

My father was a brave man. He served in WWII and was in German prison camps (mainly Stalag 17B) for over 2 years. We’ve been told by some who were there that, despite hunger and disease, it was his sense of humor that kept them going.

My son is a brave man. He is a fireman (the PC folks call it a firefighter now). As a peramedic and firefighter his job is to try and save lives. It might be treating the victim of a shooting, or pulling someone out of a fire, or handling a person with an infectius disease. He and his team often risk death or injury.

Living with Leuk does, however, involve overcoming fear.

Fear is a natural response. Its built into us as a protective mechanism. It triggers our fight-or-flight response:  “Oh, crap, saber-tooth tiger going to eat me! Run!”

I believe Fear can be sidestepped with Purpose. In my last post I mentioned Victor Frankel, a psychologist who survived a Nazi concentration camp. Many men died of starvation, disease and worse. But he observed those who did survive; the ones who never gave up. They were the men who had a reason for living. A determined mission, a purpose that kept them going.

Leuk has a sister named Fear. Combined they are formidable. But Purpose and Meaning are strong allies. Many times they win the battle against Leuk, sometimes not. But they always defeat Fear.

So what gives you purpose and meaning in your life? I gain meaning from my family. I am a husband, father, grandfather, and brother. I also find purpose in my work.

Beyond all that, you can alleviate fear and avoid depression by helping others. It would be easy to sit down, have a real pity party, and say ‘hey, I’ve got leukemia I’m the one that needs help!’ But the truth is, if you think more about helping someone else, you will feel better about yourself.

Leuk is a tenasious bully. He doesn’t just attack your heath. If you let him, he will attack your spirit. So get involved more with your family, volunteer at church, visit the lonely at nursing homes. Whatever you find enjoyable, do it! By spending more time outside of yourself, you will quiet the fear that lurks within.

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When Leuk first arrived I had an oddly neutral reaction. My doctor told me I had CLL and my response was: “Well, the odds of getting it were slim, so I guess I beat the odds. Maybe I should buy a lottery ticket.”

Later, the anger came. Not just because of Leuk. It was a whole package of things. My dad had died of lung cancer. I was in debt. My mother died after a long stressful time of caring for her. We were living with my daughter and son-in-law so we could rent out our house to help pay bills.

I’d pretty much had it and I let God know it. I was mad. I decided I didn’t believe in Him and yet I swore and yelled at Him. I might have handled the leukemia without the anger, but the whole package was too much. I’d already had it with God because of the way my dad died; lung cancer is a hell of a way to go.

Although I continue to struggle with whether God is real or not, I still spell His name with capital letters; so, I guess I’m not completely lost!

I must admit, I’m still angry with Him though over the way He allowed my dad to die. But, except for an occasional WTF (this is a PG site, so that stands for “What The Fooey”) I’m strangely at peace with Leuk.

My biggest concern isn’t my possible early demise. I mostly worry I might leave my wife in debt. I have a plan to be out of debt soon. Maybe I’ll make time to freak out about Leuk when we are debt free.

For now I’m wrapped up in work and family. I have purpose. If you want a good read, pick up Viktor Frankl‘s book Man’s Search for Meaning. His main point is Man only survives hardship if he has a purpose for living. Having a reason, a purpose, gives me a sense of completeness. I know who I am and why I am.

It helps.

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I’ve been re-thinking my ideas about chemotherapy. In a previous post (see Chug-a-Lug) I said I might not have a ‘normal’ life when taking chemo because I wouldn’t feel as healthy.

The truth is I have no idea what chemo is like because Leuk and I are still in the early stages of our relationship.

Upon re-reading that post I think I was a bit melodramatic. I guess this personal blog is partly covering my psychology; it’s more about what I think than how I feel physically. At least for now.

I recently learned that a relative of mine is taking chemotherapy meds for rheumatoid arthritis and, except for a little hair loss, she is carrying on with her life. I’m very proud of her.

She has inspired me to accept my future and not be afraid of it.

Thanks JH

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Awesome day yesterday. Watched my youngest grandson most of the day. We played Hide the Smurfs – taking turns hiding his two Smurfs and doing the “hot” and “cold” thing to help find them. We played a game dreamed up by my grandson called George of the Jungle. You took turns asking questions about George. In the beginning, his rule was if you missed a question you were out, but I explained that since there was only two of us it would be a very short game. So we decided instead to give a point for every wrong answer. whomever reached 5 points would lose. Well, my grandson was keeping score and somehow I always seemed to get to 5 after only a couple misses! We read, watched Back to the Future I & III, and he’d giggle and laugh when I’d pull an invisible tickle out of one of my pockets and chase him down with it.

I had to email some photos to my real estate agent so we drove to the deli. I don’t have internet at home – we live out in the boonies – so I drive 3 miles to use the WIFI at the deli. I also have to go there or elsewere to publish these posts. Anyway, Josh was a perfect kid, watching the food channel while I emailed and did some phone calls.

Back home we had ice creme and lunch; yes, in that order. Hey, I’m a grandpa, I get away with those things!

After he went home, I watched a few episodes of The Closer, took a short nap and then went to work.

It was a great day. Leuk never showed up once.

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