“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” Martin Luther King, Jr.
When I was first diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) in my 20s I stopped looking too far forward. Planning for the future felt presumptuous, so I learned to live more fully in the present.
September 2019 marks 19 years since my cancer diagnosis.
I’ve had the privilege of reflecting back on 2 decades of living alongside a cancer diagnosis while continuously being treated for it.
4 different cancer treatments.
12+ bone marrow biopsies.
2 cutting edge miracle meds.
3 miracle babies.
3 times achieving medicated remissions.
1 Master’s Degree.
Tens of thousands of dollars invested.
This journey is chronic. Chronic struggles. Chronic tears. Chronic persistence. Eventually forging a resilient chronic hope that anchors the soul.
I have learned invaluable life lessons of chronic hope:
We all have struggles. We all need help. We all seek a hope that is bigger than us.
We don’t rise above our struggles alone.
I can dare to make long-term goals that are bigger than me, because others dared before me.
In 1959 a researcher identified a very specific chromosomal abnormality present in CML patients. In the 1990s my first miracle medication was developed—a targeted immunotherapy treatment—that was revolutionary. The standard chemotherapy treatments did not discriminate between healthy cells and cancerous ones, thus, leaving the patient with a myriad of miserable toxicities and a bleak prognosis. But this miracle medication targeted and treated a very specific problem inside of me, on a genetic level. It was proven more effective, more efficient, and less toxic that standard chemo. It changed the world for people like me.
Reflecting back is essential for moving forward.
Now, with 3 growing kids, a specialized degree as a language and culture learning coach, and a healthy body in medicated remission, I dare to look forward.
There are so many people along the way who have given of themselves for me to be in this privileged place.
Like the doctor who created my miracle med after building on a researcher’s breakthrough 30 years earlier, what offerings can I bring that just might change the quality of life for a single soul?
These words of Martin Luther King, Jr. both scare and inspire me:
“An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.” MLK, Jr.
As a language learning coach, I love to champion individuals towards greater possibilities in their lives. But MLK Jr.’s words challenge me further forward. How can I rise above my personal cancer and be a part of treating malignancies that face all humanity?
“If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way.” MLK, Jr.
While Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s impact on society was profound, maybe he started with small offerings and a few champions in his life. I can do that! I can spend precious life energy trying to figure out my present and future impact, courageously taking small steps forward.
THANK YOU, dear people in my life, who have championed me along the way to fight my battles with cancer—my devoted Greek-immigrant family, my loving husband in sickness and in health, my life-giving friends, my empathetic professors and generous neighbors.
THANK YOU, doctors and researchers, for devoting your lives and your minds to profoundly changing my prognosis and my quality of life.
Thank you, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., for your wisdom and impact on the world, and for encouraging me to bravely take baby steps far beyond my personal cancer.
THANK YOU, readers, for allowing me to reflect back, and dare into the future, on this journey of chronic hope.