Monday, February 16, 2009


Luck seems to play a role in determining who survives leukemia and who doesn't. It's a bad-luck disease for sure. Relatively rare, and except for exposure to benzene or excessive radiation, its causes are unclear. The survival rate for adult leukemia is discouraging, although it's better than for some other diseases. The treatment is harsh and sometimes fatal. You can be "cured" of leukemia and expire from the side effects.

I've been ruminating about why some people survive leukemia and others (more) don't. Sometimes it's the aggressiveness of the disease. Sometimes it's geography. Sometimes it comes down to a single microbe. My leukemia responded well to chemotherapy. I live in an area with easy access to excellent treatment facilities and top doctors. I somehow dodged the germs that might have erased all my other "lucky" circumstances.

Pardon my negativity. I've witnessed far too many valiant fights where leukemia has been the victor. There are successes, to be sure. I'm one of them, for now at least. I hope my luck holds, that my retrofitted immune system continues to search and destroy lurking mutant clones.

There's no time for hand-wringing though. You can up the odds for someone battling leukemia by giving blood, becoming a bone marrow/stem cell donor, donating money to groups fighting for a cure.

This is your lucky day.


Anonymous said...

Perfect post. I agree with you completely. You just have a way of saying it far more eloquently and directly.
You are doing great and offer so much hope for all of us a little behind you.

Jim said...

Agree with Lea ... You can't say it any better than this. Thanks for venting. I feel better.

Wendy S. Harpham, MD said...

I'm an 18-yr survivor of indolent lymphoma, in and out of treatment. I wrote the following article for healthcare professionals about the problem of death being equated with losing (and meaning the cancer won):

I also wrote an article on the role of luck in survivorship:

I hope you find them useful.
(If the links don't work, you can get to them via my blog/website)

With hope,