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Inspirational Stories


chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL)

I was recently diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). My mom passed away from pulmonary fibrosis right before Thanksgiving 2022. She never smoked and had none of the risk factors that led to that type of disease. So, I thought I would get a physical to make sure I was healthy. I have a 2½-year-old daughter, and I am an older mom, so I figured I should make sure my lungs were healthy. I didn't even have a primary care physician, so I asked my good friends for a recommendation. I went to see my new doctor who was overly thorough, too thorough I thought.  Imagine my surprise when I was told my lungs were great, but my white blood cell count was high, so I needed to see a hematologist. I made the appointment a couple of weeks later. I met with the doctor who did not seem too concerned. Then the technicians took several vials of blood, and the doctor told me to come back in two weeks. Easy breezy. She said the results would be back in a week or so. I headed to work.

I am a Chicago Police homicide sergeant. On the way to work, my Live Well app kept giving me notifications, and within moments, my world changed. Within one hour of leaving my doctor's appointment, I was reading a pathology report that said I had leukemia. I immediately thought of my daughter growing up without a mother, and my husband raising her alone. I thought of how unfair it was to have her at an older age, and now I have cancer.

Now that a little time has passed, I decided I need to make sure that I spread the word about how important it is for everyone, especially first responders, to get their annual checkups. We spend all of our time taking care of others which results in us often overlooking our own health. In the last few years, I have lost four fellow (young) homicide detectives/supervisors who were co-workers and friends from rare cancers. This job takes a toll not only on your mental health but your physical health as well. I am told that the normal age for diagnosis of CLL is 70 years of age. I know that the stress of this job may have led to my diagnosis. I want to tell others to put themselves first sometimes and make sure the stress of caring for others does not destroy their health. My mom’s passing, while heartbreaking, led me to make myself a priority. I remain optimistic and want others to do the same. I've got a lot of life left to live.

CLL Michele