Thursday, September 01, 2011

September is Blood Cancer Awareness Month

December 18, 2003
At about 5:30 p.m., Dr. Alter entered my room, and I knew immediately the news was going to be life changing. He sat down and informed me that the bone biopsy came back positive for leukemia. A jolt of panic surged through my entire body. I took a deep breath, pursed my lips together, and tried to hold back the tears. I parted my lips slightly and released my breath slowly. I glanced at Barbara, and clearly, she was upset. I had suspected as much, but actually hearing it was shocking.

Dr. Alter informed me that Dr. Stuart Goldberg, my oncologist, would be in later to talk to me more in depth about what I was facing and the treatment options available. He also said that another bone marrow extraction would be performed the following day because the one today had produced no marrow and that is needed to determine the type of leukemia I have as there are several varieties.

 ~ Excerpt from Rebirth: A Leukemia Survivor’s Journal of Healing during Chemotherapy, Bone Marrow Transplant, and Recovery

That is the day I began my blood cancer education, in particular as it pertained to acute lymphocytic (also known as lymphoblastic) leukemia (ALL). It was determined a few days later that I had adult ALL. ALL is the most common form of blood cancer found in children and today has a cure rate of about 90.8% for children five and younger, per the National Cancer Institute. Long-term survivor statistics aren’t quite so rosy, about 66%, when factoring in all ages. I am seven years post-bone marrow transplant and consider myself quite fortunate.

Blood cancers include leukemia, lymphoma, myeloma, myelodysplastic syndromes, and myeloproliferative diseases. Within each of these cancers there are several variations.

Over the next month I will be posting information about blood cancers that the reader may find useful. I am an Advocacy Network and First Connection Volunteer and speaker for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS), the largest voluntary health agency dedicated to blood cancers. The organization’s mission is to cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin's disease and myeloma, and improve the quality of life of patients and their families. The LLS is a terrific resource for patients, caregivers and health care professionals.

A list of additional national cancer charities and foundations can be found on the Resource4Leukemia site.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Finding Inspiration from a Movie

“He laughs at fear, afraid of nothing. He does not shy away from the sword. He cannot stand still when the trumpet sounds.”   ~ Penny Chenery Tweedy, owner of Secretariat, the 1973 Triple Crown Winner

These are the words Diane Lane (as Penny Chenery in the movie Secretariat) speaks as the viewer watches in a moment of silence, a brief reprieve from the pounding of hooves on the track and the cheering, screaming fans in the stands, waiting for Secretariat to storm around the final bend at the Belmont Stakes to secure his 1973 Triple Crown win. Chills run up my spine then the silence breaks as Secretariat rounds the turn toward a record-breaking 31-length victory. To this day, no horse has come close to his margin of victory or his record.

I did not see the movie when it opened in 2010, but purchased it recently from On Demand. I watched it and when it ended, immediately watched it again. The horse, the owner, the trainer, the jockey, the groom, the secretary…these people made an amazing team. The story of Secretariat is more than just that of an exceptional horse, but also one of a woman determined to see her father’s life's work through to the end despite the obstacles. Ms. Chenery was determined, confident, persistent, resourceful, loving, supportive, and demanding when necessary. She was an example to her children that if you have a dream or a goal you do not back down, which is a valuable lesson for anyone.

Sometimes it is easy to give up or become discouraged when setbacks occur or people refuse to help or provide needed support. In the end, it is only ourselves who can make sure we stay on track. Fear of failure, rejection, or the unknown are the biggest reasons people do not take the risks involved in changing careers, moving to a different city, pursuing a romantic interest, traveling around the world, or any other adventure.

I am a calculated risk-taker, I wish I weren’t quite so calculated, but I like to know where I’m headed; I always have a game plan. Still, if I could just get past the fear of rejection—my biggest fear—I might be more confident approaching casting directors and agents in order to potentially move my acting career along faster. I don't have a fear of rejection at auditions (I'm used to that by now) but it's the fear of asking for what I need or want: representation or more auditions. I am working to overcome this fear and am always encouraged when I hear a phrase or quote that truly resonates with being fearless, and the above quote does just that: Don’t be afraid, don’t shy away, and don’t stand still.