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Inspirational Stories


CLL Survivor

The last time I gave blood was in June of 2016. I was set to start my fourth gallon when I was told by the volunteer my iron was too low. “Come back next time and eat some raisins before you come,” I was told. The next time was an iron failure again. I made an appointment with my PCP for my annual physical and he drew blood for a CBC. Much to my surprise, he called me the next evening at dinner time and said my white cells had some problems and I should see a hematologist/oncologist. He explained his brother had CLL, a possible diagnosis, and lives a normal life.

I am active with adult education classes, narrate books for the blind, lead a church group to work parties and write to two incarcerated men monthly as a pen pal. I wondered how an active person, such as myself, could have a blood disease with the word cancer attached. I saw the oncologist in July 2017 and after blood tests and CT scan, it was decided I would receive oral therapy because the spleen was twice the size of normal. Oral therapy was started in August, 2017 and proved to be effective and no side effects. In reality, oral therapy proved to be a non event as my life continued at its normal pace with all activities continued. I had to think through my situation carefully as I have a spouse, two children and seven grandchildren that are important to me as well as my activities.

I live in the Pittsburgh, PA area and football is an important part of our culture. I remember our retired quarterback Terry Bradshaw asked coach Chuck Noll for permission to play one more year as the quarterback. Coach Noll told Terry he had performed very well but felt Terry should "get on with your life's work". Terry took this advice, reluctantly, and became a sports announcer. In my case, I feel my life's work is not done or completed. My activities at school and volunteering and my family are critical parts of who I am and how I want to be in the world.

I frequently remind myself that my life's work is not finished. It is a powerful stimulus and motivator. My life's work is not done! In August, 2019, it was discovered I have stage IV lung cancer, unrelated to my CLL. I am under treatment today with chemo and immunotherapy along with my exercise to control this new problem. The results of a PET Scan from 5-28-20, shows the CLL is largely resolved and the lung cancer is stable. I have resumed my schooling through ZOOM and will return to volunteering when the COVID-19 is quiet and will narrate books for the blind at home. We will visit children and grandchildren as the viral safety of air travel improves. My life's work is not done. I have more miles to travel and I am up to it. MY LIFE'S WORK IS NOT DONE!