Life in perspective
As usual, I was looking for some inspiration for today’s post while I was on the marshrutka ride to work this morning. Part of me wanted to write about one of the frustrations I encounter on a daily basis here. Part of me saw someone standing on the ice on the river (which is not heavy enough to support someone) and wanted to write about how even though people here are different, they are the same as well, in many ways.
Then I got to work, opened up Facebook and discovered that a friend in the U.S. is ill. I had seen a week or two ago notes on her wall about her being sick, but I thought she had a bad flu or something. Today I discovered how much more than that it is. She has Acute Myelogenous Leukemia.
Now, I don’t know about the rest of you, but I am no doctor. I tried not to feel my stomach drop when I saw “Leukemia” and looked it up on the Internet. Here is what I found:
AML is the most common type of acute leukemia. More than 11,900 new cases occur in the United States each year, mostly in older adults. The average age of a person with AML is 65 years. (Note – she is not yet 40).
Apparently, this type of cancer can get bad quickly. Here is more information on treatment:
For a patient with AML, the treatment plan may include:
- Chemotherapy — drugs that destroy cancer cells or stop them from growing.
- A bone marrow or cord blood transplant.
- All-trans retinoic acid (ATRA) if he or she has the subtype of AML known as promyelocytic leukemia.
- Other newer treatments that were recently developed or are still being studied in clinical trials.
I won’t go into other information I found out about the disease. Suffice it to say, my day has changed because of it. I sat there, reading about this disease, and reading the things on her wall, in tears.
This person who got Leukemia is one of the most loving, light-filled people I have known. She spreads such joy to so many people. It is amazing to see the things that people are posting on her Facebook wall. Her attitude to this happening has been nothing short of astonishing – she is approaching it with such optimism, in her graceful and loving way that she approaches life.
I am ashamed at myself for my periods of depression. I, who am healthy and able-bodied, have intelligence and (generally) my sanity, and so many other gifts. What right do I have to feel depressed? I have also been lucky enough to not have been touched with a great deal of death or illness in my life – the same with my family. To be sure, we all have our aches and pains, but this is a whole different story. Something like this really puts life into perspective.
I guess we all need that sometimes though – to get a jarring dose of reality to wake us up our of the self-centered comas into which we can fall. To be sure, it is natural to be somewhat self-centered (as opposed to selfish) – it is unintentional, just a normal part of life. We live our lives, not those of others. But there are a special few who are able to go beyond themselves, not just on an occasional basis, but every day, and who give of themselves. “A” is one such person – her generosity of spirit and loving nature has touched many people. I strive to allow myself to be so open with my love, as she is. Most of the time I fail.
Another thing this has underscored – please, please, please – if you can, give blood, and register to be a bone marrow donor as well. Giving blood is so easy – it only takes a few minutes, and saves lives. Registering to be a marrow donor is just as easy, and means your donation can have a greater impact in peoples’ lives.
On this eve of a new year, I reflect again on my life. Of course I have regrets. I strive to be a better person, and have spent a lot of time reflecting on past events, behavior, how I react to situations and people, and try to consider how I can improve any of these things in the future. And I try to pay attention to the lessons that life gives me, in whatever form that they come.
Happy New Year to you all.