Yesterday I nearly got plowed into by a car. I was pulling a utility trailer with a heavy load and turned left. The car came out of nowhere. He hit his brakes and I hit mine. We stopped with only a few feet between us. No fender bender, just frayed nerves.

Even though no one was hurt, it reminded me how unpredictable our fates are. When you have leukemia it is easy to assume Leuk will cause your demise. And seeing as he’s a terminal kind of guy it is reasonable to think so.

But nothing is certain. I could be walking along, complaining to myself about how tired my leukemia is making me, wondering how bad it’s going to get and when I’ll kick the bucket then suddenly get flattened by a falling piano. Which reminds me of a pun:

Show me a piano falling down a mine shaft and I’ll show you A-flat minor.

But I digress.

Point being, despite our leukemia, there are healthy people who will die before us. Death is not an exclusive club. Everyone is headed there. So we shouldn’t waste the time we have worrying about when or how we’ll checkout. Let’s live anticipating life, not fearing death.

Like Red Skelton said, “Don’t take life too seriously. No one gets out of it alive.”

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Turkey cartoonI hope everyone had a happy Thanksgiving. Mine was great. My wife, kids, kids-in-law, and grandkids were all there. Our tiny house was crammed full of family and love.

My wife and I are called Amma and Afi. That’s Icelandic for Grandma and Grandpa. We’ve reached that point in life where we can relax and enjoy all we have. Of course, everyone should do that regardless of age but it is twice as good when the demands of life are less and there is time for contemplation and appreciation. Even Leuk was far from my mind that day.

Leukemia has a way of making me appreciate what I have. My perceived limitation of time until ‘D-day’ makes me even more focused on the blessings at hand. So much of the stuff that really matters, the really important stuff that my formally busy life kept me from appreciating, is now at the forefront. Life is good.

I say that despite the leukemia. There are of course days when Leuk brings me down and I get into a real pity party, but most days not.

Thanksgiving Day comes around every November to make us stop and be grateful for what we have. Leuk is always with us but he can’t take who we are away. Not if we focus on being grateful.

I hope that day brought you a healing moment of thankfulness too.

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Scott Firefighter Stairclimb coin

I think being grateful is a good way to reduce stress and combat depression. But it is easy to forget to be grateful. Unfortunately the opposite is not true. It is easy to develop a negative attitude. We don’t have to remember to be negative. The downers of life can simply lead us there. But they don’t have to.

So I’ve decided to take action. I am creating a habit of gratefulness.

Habits are formed by repeated practice until they seem like the most natural thing to do. But in order to build a new habit you need someway of reminding yourself to practice it. Here’s mine:

I now carry in my pocket a memorial coin my son gave me. It is from his first Scott Firefighter Stair Climb to raise money for leukemia research. Each year he dedicates his climb to me. And two weeks later I do the civilian version, called The Big Climb, with him.

Anyway, I have a rule that every time I touch that coin I will think of something I’m grateful for. The coin gets touched at least twice each day: in the morning when I put it in my pocket and the evening when I take it out. That means that every day I have to come up with a minimum of two things. Of course I reach into my pocket during the day to fetch keys, change, etc. Sometimes I find myself just fidgeting with the coin for no particular reason. So I might touch that coin four or five times a day. That’s a LOT of thank you’s.

It is already making a difference in my attitude and thinking in general.

So give it a shot. I’ve heard of one person who uses a small rock. It doesn’t really matter, as long as it’s an object of special significance to you.

But don’t chose something too large or Mae West might think you’re just happy to see her.

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Hi. Sorry I haven’t written in awhile.

You know that rabbit hole I’ve mentioned before? Normally when I see myself getting too close to it I run the other way. But this time I sat down, dangling my feet over the edge.

Depression is nothing to flirt with though. I was in that hole once and there is no way I’m going back in. But this last couple weeks I got close. Too close.

The writing – my book, my two blogs – stopped. This can happen from time to time for quite normal reasons. But the rabbit hole is different. Maybe I should call it a black hole because depression can suck the creativity right out of you.

The signs where there. I let my hair grow too long, I went for a couple weeks without shaving. And showers, well, lets just say my daily routine skipped a few days – actually more than a few.

I had to laugh though. When I finally did step away from the hole and looked in the mirror, Professor Dumbledore was looking back.  I looked twice my age and that’s saying something since twice my age would be 130.

I do let myself go some times in the shaving department. I mean, when you’re at home by yourself pounding out words on the computer who cares what you look like. I’m sure my wife and kids do but somehow they’ve adjusted to my screwy idiosyncrasies.

This time though I went into bizzarro mode. I had Einstein hair and a beard no mother could love.

Anyway, I’m back all showered and shaved. The old bedraggle guy is replaced with this extremely handsome young man. (Hey, it’s my blog. Let me live the fantasy.)

I’ll try to get at least a few posts out each week. Thanks to all you Leuk fighters for sticking with me.

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MRI machine

So. As some of you know, until Leuk causes symptoms, leukemia is an invisible disease. It’s easy to forget you have it. But, of course, it doesn’t take too long until a reminder shows up.

I had an MRI for an issue unrelated to my leukemia but apparently the test picked up more than just my hip problem. It was a single line in the report, almost an afterthought:

The bone marrow signal is abnormal but consistent with the clinical history of marrow infiltrative process/CLL.

Yeah. Hey guys, all I wanted was info on why my hip was hurting. I didn’t need the casual mention of Leuk lurking around in my bone marrow.

Really? No kidding. Thanks for the reminder.

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