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.