All of my life I have seen myself as healthy, and even though I have always struggled with lack of energy and have had what I thought were minor health issues, I had always hoped that I would be like my mom, who is 92. She takes only one medication (for blood pressure) and sees the doctor twice a year just to see if there are any changes.
I have watched, feeling like an outside observer, as more and more of my friends have faced health challenges, but somehow felt that Art and I were exempt, that we would just go on being healthy and strong even after retirement. We weren’t exercising as we should, but surely the more relaxed pace of retirement would help us do better in that area. And we were doing our best, within our means, to eat healthfully. The reduction in stress these past months had already positively affected our blood pressure. Surely we would be fine.
Then came the “Welcome to Medicare” physicals, including testing that we had neglected over the years. Art’s results came back just fine, except for cholesterol, but it seemed that whenever one of mine came back, there was something new to face. Mammogram? “A small dense area, probably nothing, but we think you should get an ultrasound”—I declined that one. Bone density? “One of your vertebrae is weak enough to give you the diagnosis of osteoporosis”—I relented on that one and began taking Fosamax. Bloodwork? “Your CBC shows elevated white cell count, we want to check it again in a month. Possibly just a reaction to infection but we want to make sure.”—I was more irritated than anything at this point, but since my dad and brother both had CLL, I decided to go ahead and have the second check. When that one came back high too, they wanted me to see a hematologist in Gainesville, 30 miles away. I rebelled at that, thinking briefly that I would wait until after our trip out west, but again, given the family history, I decided to go ahead and have more tests done, just to fine out for sure. To make a long story short, on June 6, Emily’s 15th birthday, I got the call and was informed that indeed, I had CLL, chronic lymphocytic leukemia—blood cancer. The news knocked the wind out of my sails, even though I had been expecting it. I was not invulnerable.
It’s funny, looking back, that I ever thought I was. Yesterday, after three weeks of waiting, I went back and heard the news that yes, I had tested positive for one of the markers that would affect my longevity, but two others were negative, and there was no genetic mutation at this point. So the news was mostly good, but still, I had to face the fact that I have an incurable disease. And even though it looks like I’ll still have 8-10 years, maybe more, to live, it could also be much longer or much less. It made me realize in a different way that my times are in God’s hands. And really, do any of us know that we have 8-10 years to live? or more? Are we sure that we have even tomorrow? “My times are in His hands” has a new meaning for me now, and I am thinking more seriously about what He has for me to become and to accomplish in the time remaining to me. There is a new urgency to be more serious about life, and yet to enjoy each day He gives me. Each new day is a gift from Him, and this is a blessing. No, I will never be the same, but I have been blessed with a deeper sense of peace in knowing that my Father gives grace and wisdom for each day.