CHRONIC HOPE: A Cancer Diagnosis


Georgia Coats is a Language & Culture Learning Coach, freelance writer, educator, wife, and mother of three who is passionate about healthy mind-body-spirit living. Chronic Hope is Georgia’s collection of stories, lessons, and life adventures of living alongside chronic leukemia, cancer of the white blood cells, for two decades. She blogs about what’s on her mind at www.onmymindbygeorgia.wordpress.com.

By Georgia Coats
The Yemeni American News

Misery. Unknown. Disappointment. DEATH

These are fears common to all human beings. There is nothing like a cancer diagnosis to encompass a few of these basic fear elements. I faced a dreaded diagnosis when I was 27 years old, newly married, and had many hopes and dreams of traveling the world and raising a family. I was in graduate school and hoping to do some Middle Eastern studies abroad.

After a few persisting headaches, some minor weight loss (which I didn’t mind), and some severe exhaustion, my concerned new husband insisted I go to the doctor. A battery of blood tests and an excruciating bone marrow biopsy confirmed my diagnosis.
Naturally, the worst fear of a cancer diagnosis is death. I remember the first time someone asked me what my prognosis was. I didn’t even know that word. I had to look it up, and let it sink in that people were actually asking me when the doctors think I might die. That was crazy! I was still in my twenties!
“Good news!” the hematologist-oncologist told me after he had confirmed my particular label, Chronic Myeloid Leukemia (CML).
“You’re young.
You were diagnosed early on in the development of the disease.
It’s chronic, so it develops more slowly.
We have promising new research and treatment for CML.”
Though the doctor meant well in his optimism, I wanted to punch his smiling face. These factors were all in my favor to avoid death. But what about living a miserable life? What about dreams of starting a family? So many unknowns.
The strange thing about a cancer diagnosis, is that once you face one, you never have to go through that first experience again. I had faced one of my greatest fears and was figuring out how to live with it.
My disease was chronic. Cancer and I were planning to coexist side-by-side for a long time.
Fear stayed. I learned to keep company with unknowns. I learned to embrace intimate encounters with disappointment.
My husband and I worked hard to make sense of our new circumstances. I quit graduate school. I really hate quitting. I gave up the dream of studying abroad.
Two things were certain amidst the unsettling unknowns: 1. God is still God and He is good. 2. My husband was by my side, and together we would figure it out.
With those two certainties, we learned to cultivate hope.
“Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.” Vaclav Havel, Czech writer and statesman.
My disease was chronic. My fears were real and present. Hope wasn’t just the optimism I needed to “fight this thing.” We were clinging to the hope that this diagnosis would make sense in our lives—eventually. Someday, our hope would be greater than our fear.
We have to make sense of the difficult things in our lives otherwise the prognosis is despair. And humanity cannot heal when it despairs.