Overcoming the Worry of Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia Recurrence
by Lynn Aspey
Approximately seven years ago, the day I retired, I was diagnosed with small lymphocytic lymphoma which has progressed to chronic lymphocytic leukemia.
To say I handled it well was not the case. When the nurse practitioner told me my chromosomes put me at high risk for a more aggressive cancer, fear gripped my soul and I wanted to escape, but where would I go? Then I felt this warm reassuring body of 145 pounds (my husband) landing on top of me and pinning me down. I realized I was not leaving and would be taking in information that would change my life.
I had not planned this. What I had planned was my retirement: sleeping late, cooking, traveling to see family, playing with my grandchildren, and working out. However, life happened, and in an instant, I was having a bone marrow biopsy and visiting doctors weekly at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – James.
I chose to embark on a clinical trial, and I have now been in remission for nearly two years.The medical advances with blood cancers are truly amazing. However, I have been told by my oncologist, Dr. Jennifer Woyach, that my cancer will probably return; I will die with it – but not necessarily from it. My medical team does not know when or how it will come back, because test results are too new to determine that.
So, I have a silent stalker named chronic lymphocytic leukemia waiting and lurking around the corner to stimulate my cancer cells into returning. Most of the time we have choices of how we want to live, and I choose happiness over despair. Why end your life with misery when there can be so much time left to enjoy?
However, you must seek happiness out as the enjoyment of life does not always come to you. No one knows when the end is near. So, party when you can, rest when you need too, enjoy what you can, and play in the sunshine of life.
Often if I think about my cancer returning, I can go into an emotional tizzy just thinking about it. Self-pity and rain can cloud my thoughts. However, I have such a great life in retirement, so why would I do that to myself? I have no restrictions; I work out daily, cook, play games with friends, go out to eat, enjoy family, and play with my grandchildren.
Life is too enjoyable to worry that the silent stalker is going to ravage my body at some point. It might, but my oncologist assures me there are new drugs and clinical trials.
Now the silent stalker has become my friend. We treat our friends with kind and gentle thoughts, and we don’t show fear. Fear can prevent us from enjoying our remission and the days we have without cancer. So, every day I choose mind over matter and joy over fear.
Lynn Aspey, a seven-year cancer survivor of chronic lymphocytic leukemia, has participated in two clinical trials at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – James in Columbus, OH. She also volunteers at the center by serving on the Patient/Family Advisory council. Professionally, Lynn has a BSHEc and MS from Ohio University in Child & Family Development and was Director of Business Relations at Jewish Family Services for nearly 20 years. Now retired, she has two grandchildren and has been married to her husband Wayne for 53 years. Lynn enjoys Aqua Fit exercises daily and participates in “Light the Night” for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
Everyone has a unique story to share. Do you want to share your survivor story?
We consider a cancer survivor to be anyone living with a history of cancer –
from diagnosis through the remainder of life.
Here are our submission guidelines.