When I received the news that Leuk had come into my life, I was hesitant to introduce him to anyone. I felt that if I told my friends I had leukemia they would treat me differently. I even thought I would lose some.
But my attempts to keep it a secret made it difficult for my wife. She needed to be able to talk about it to others. I realized I was being selfish in not admitting I had CLL (see my first blog post, Coming Out).
This doesn’t mean I felt compelled to announce it to everyone I met. But my closest friends needed to know.
So what happened? Was I treated differently? Did I lose contact with friends?
Well, in a way, yes.
But it wasn’t my friends. It was mostly me. I became more reserved, more reclusive. I’ve never been a social butterfly. I’m more of an introvert. My circle of friends has always been smaller than most because I choose my friends carefully.
But my natural introverted nature feed my desire to hide. I’m not saying I became a hermit. My wife would never put up with that. But I found myself spending less time with friends.
It turns out my friends did treat me differently. Not for the reasons I had anticipated, but because of my own reactions to Leuk. Sure, some had difficulty talking about it with me, but mostly I was the one with hangups.
When Leuk intrudes in your life, it is important to do two things: (1) acknowledge him, admit that he is real, that he will cause changes in your life, and (2) determine to not let those changes and the threats Leuk makes effect who you are as a person. Your friends need to see you are still you. This can only happen when you see yourself for who you really are.
You have leukemia. But you are not the disease. You are more.
The road to beating Leuk begins with choosing one of two paths. On the one path Leuk is your master and he makes you into his image. On the other, Leuk is invasive but you are the strong, valiant fighter and your first battle will be to reclaim who you are.
There will be times when you feel you are out of control, that Leuk has the upper hand. But deep inside there is a place he can’t touch unless you let him. He has no power to go there unless you open the door.
It is your moral and emotional nature. It is your sense of identity. It is your soul.
Build a safe wall around your soul by staying in contact with your friends and family – smiling, laughing, singing, and crying with them. Loving them and reassuring them. Staying active. These are the things that feed a healthy soul.
Your body may be sick. You may be having a difficult struggle with Leuk. But that secret place inside of you can be kept healthy. That part of you, the most important part, can stay strong and alive. It all depends on the path you choose.