Tuesday, February 19, 2013

When other people get leukemia

I read with interest the story in today's New York Times about how Dr. Susan Love's own illness has given new focus to her cause of fighting for the needs of people with cancer.

Love, 65, the surgeon, advocate and author of "Dr. Susan Love's Breast Book"was shocked to discover at a recent routine checkup that she had acute myelogenous leukemia. She had given a talk last spring chiding the research establishment for ignoring the needs of people with cancer, only to discover not too long after the talk that was a patient herself. She said she might have been less shocked if she had breast cancer because it is so common, "but getting leukemia was a world I didn't know."

Luckily, her younger sister was a match for a bone marrow transplant. She received the transplant after chemotherapy, and is now in remission. But she was in the hospital for seven weeks due to complications after the transplant.

Welcome to my world.

Whenever I hear about someone with leukemia, the word lights up for me like a blinking red light. I have to stop and read about it some more. People with other cancers have told me the same thing happens with their cancer. When someone with leukemia is doing well, I feel good about it. When I read about a death, I feel bad not only for the person who died, but I also feel a sense of dread for myself. I know people die of it, but when I see it, I am reminded of the seriousness, and I think, I could die. Now that I am so far out and doing so well (aside from all my stupid complications), it is less chilling, but it still affects me.

Here's another example. I was browsing through the last print edition of Newsweek (Dec. 31, 2012, so sad) and was reading editor Tina Brown's column about the last issue. She mentioned the loss of executive chairman Sidney Harmon, who died of complications of ... leukemia. I looked up his obituary, which said he had an active life and a short illness before his death at 92.

So...that I can take. But not the death of a young person. I am reminded of Iditarod champion Susan Butcher, who died in 2006 at 51 when she relapsed after a stem cell transplant for leukemia. I was in the hospital for some complication or other. My social worker, Mary Lou Hackett, said she had to tell everyone on the floor to turn off the TV.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dearest Runni,

i wish you had never had to enter that world, but you have made it so much more bearable by your work of inspiring others...not only those in the horror of aml, but those with other forms of cancer, including rare, unheard of forms...

Kudos, Friend...for the Beacon...the Anchor...the Hope