In 1995 Janice was diagnosed with Chronic Mylegenous Leukemia and given less than a year to live. Proving cancer wrong on a daily basis, Janis is happily married, a proud mother and enjoying every minute of every day.
A Short Story By Veteran Cancer Fighter Janice Throup
The blast cells—the bad guys, the ones that were going to kill me—were perfect circles with little purple halos from the dye they used to stain them. The good cells—the ones that had matured properly—were misshapen. They looked aged and tired in comparison with these new little babies who hadn’t yet differentiated.
I was struck silent. This was not what I had expected. I was diagnosed with leukemia in the days when the Pac-Man visualizations were popular. You were supposed to imagine Pac Men (from the old video game) eating the bad cells. I’ve never been very warlike, so the exercise had no appeal to me, but I thought maybe I should take a look at the enemy.
My doctor, already frustrated with me because I had refused the only real chance of recovery (a bone marrow transplant) was persuaded to let me look at my marrow in exchange for my promise to him of more bone marrow biopsies (“just a little prick” he called them, but they seemed horribly invasive to me). Perhaps the deal appealed to the scientist in him. He left his other patients waiting and took me down to the bowels of the hospital to see my blast cells through a microscope.
I felt something shift inside of me when I saw these purple wonders. They looked so harmless. It struck me that they were just trying to live their little cell-lives. I mean, something had gone wrong because they weren’t following the normal pattern of white blood cells, but they looked … well, happy.
Chronic Mylegenous Leukemia doesn’t hurt. At least in the beginning. Because nothing hurt, I was, at first, disinclined to believe my diagnosis. When my doctor pressed upon me the seriousness of my condition—“only 2% of people with your condition are still alive in two years”—I began to feel betrayed by my body. It had always served me well and I had always loved it. I had studied ballet, taken up mountain climbing, been a star yoga student. And now, in the very marrow of my bones, it was trying to kill me.
But there in the hospital basement, as I looked at those little purple baby cells, I felt overwhelmed with Love. I simply couldn’t get my mind around these babies being the bad guys. They were young life, full of promise, full of beauty. I felt myself falling in love with them, and all of a sudden, my body and I had a reconciliation.
Along with this feeling of invasive Love there came a flood of all those wonderful corollary consolations—the certainty that everything was just as it should be, that I could relax and let life unfold as it would, even if it led to death.
It didn’t. Now, I’m not saying that my attitude brought on healing (though the timing might lead one to believe so). I am saying that for me, acceptance gave me my life back—gave me back the feeling that neither my body nor life was against me. And I realized that the enemy wasn’t Death—it was Fear.
“Perfect love casts out Fear.” Didn’t Jesus say that? It’s true. And maybe, just maybe, when Love prevails, cells realign themselves. Or they don’t but that’s OK too, because what we’re about on this planet is learning how to love. And if that lesson comes through illness, even through terminal illness, it’s still OK as long as we learn it.