Guest Post by Brian Leigh, AML Survivor and LLS Volunteer: TNT alumni, Man & Woman of the Year Class of ’10 and Light The Night Walker
Hello again Tuesday, March 18th. It sure has been a while. 6 years? Wow! My, oh my, how time flies. What’s up with you?
Not too much has changed in my life. I live in the same place, work at the same job, still looking for that right (not the same) girl. So… you know, the same old same old. Oh, I got a new car! It was kind of a while ago, but it was after we split, so it’s news to you. So that’s cool.
Let’s see… what else?
You gave me something the last time I saw you, didn’t you?
What was it?
Oh yeah! Last time I saw you, you brought my leukemia diagnosis. I guess I never got a chance to ‘thank’ you for that one. So… yeah.
You took my d7q chromosome and replaced it with 90% BLASTS! BLASTS sure do sound like a lot of fun – kind of remind me of fireworks – but don’t let the name fool you. They’re not very cool. They overstayed their welcome, so I had to eradicate them. I hope you don’t mind. I mean, next time maybe rethink that gift. K?
You took my health and replaced it with new and exciting things like neutropenia so I couldn’t eat and drink what I wanted to. You gave me nausea so I got sick at some key inopportune times, like on a date and at a
friend’s wedding. You gave me anemia so I didn’t have the energy for a “normal” life.
You took my innocence (or what was left of it) and replaced it with an experience that I wish upon no one else. Ever.
Last time we met, you took a lot of things from me. But there’s so much more that you could never take away. My spirit, strength, hope, courage, and control. You never took any of these! I’ll retain control of my life, (thank) you very much!
For everything you took away, I gained even more. For every word that chemo brain temporarily removed from my vocabulary, I learned new words like remission, survive, recovery, and Relentless.
I had to eradicate the BLASTS from my life, but thankfully I never had to eradicate any relationships. In fact, I made plenty of new friendships, which is more than I can say for other friends in similar situations. So I guess I’m kind of lucky in that respect.
Existing friendships were strengthened through visits and walks. New friendships were forged in support groups and with my medical team. Eventually, I reached out and made some awesome friends while volunteering, advocating, and fund raising for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. These are some of the friendships that you read about. The “life-long” friendships that had only ever happened to me through college, high school football, actual life-long friends, and those occasional friends where everything just clicks. I now find myself with more of these friends, who are always good for a perfectly timed playlist, always know the right words for motivation, and are always willing to offer up the “here’s how I can help”. We’re all Relentless. We all just click.
The “gift” you brought me last Tuesday March 18th didn’t last too long. I beat the leukemia. I persevered through the neutropenic diets. I laughed (and slept) through the nausea. And I walked through the anemia.
6 years, eh? Yeah. I’ve made tremendous personal growth. I went from zero to 5k to half marathon to full marathon with some of my best friends by my side (literally!). I’ve personally helped raise more than $42,000 for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. So what? It’s just a dollar amount, right? Well I hope that the personal connections that I’ve made on top of that fund raising makes an even bigger impact on improving the quality of life for those living with cancer than the money ever could. The visits, talks, laughs, dinners, drinks, casino nights, pizza parties, concerts, and all of the undefinable in between.
6 years of surprises. 6 years of changes. But I’m not done yet with making changes. Neither is The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. I look forward to continuing my involvement with LLS to bring new treatments & new cures as quickly as possible to those fighting not only blood cancers, but all cancer.
See you next time Tuesday March 18th. Let’s see what each of us can do by 2025!