Life is something that is going to end for all of us eventually, I have recently met some people who have a guarantee of less time than the rest of us. It is troubling for me because at the same time these people have to waste the majority of what little time they have left, dealing with medical bills and arrangements for the future when I know that all they really want to do is spend the time with those they love.
I want to fix this. I know that I may not be able to cure cancer for these people tomorrow; but I’d like to be able to help them enjoy the time they do have left. I’d like to start something that can do just that, help with medical bills, arrangements for the future, and show them there is still beauty in the world with the time they have left.
I’m not sure how I am going to do it, but I know for certain that I want to and that’s a start. If my treatment was not working I know I would certainly want someone to do the same for me.
Here’s to figuring it out.
A couple weeks ago I presented some friends with the question of whether or not we had purpose as individuals in our lives and if we could have an impact on the world. The consensus was that we are not big enough in the grand scheme of things to have an impact on the rest of the world. I disagree. I spent the next week or so trying to figure out how I can prove that we do make an impact.
For a few days I decided to keep track of the number of people that I actually interact with in person on a daily basis. The first day was a saturday. On saturdays I bartend a 10 hour shift at Applebee’s. I didn’t keep a tally or anything so I can’t be certain on the number but by my memory I counted 79 people that I either had conversations with, held a door for, smiled at, spoke to in the drive-thru, etc.
I started to wonder how many people an average person might come in to contact with on a particular day, and what that might mean for the number of people they could influence in a single day. On Sunday I was off and did very little with my day. I still interacted with 14 different people. I began thinking a little more about what my conversations and smiles might mean for the people I interact with and started to think of how the people I meet each day affect the rest of my day.
Working in the restaurant business I have realized that each table has the potential to swing my day very easily to a good day or a bad day. If I bust my butt to take care of a table of 20 people and give them great service and then they decide to tip me $5 on a $200 tab, it has the potential to put me in a bad mood. I’ve seen it happen too many times where one bad table puts a server in a bad mood for the rest of the day and like a virus, the bad mood spreads and they make poor tips for the entire shift. On the other hand I also know that when I am waiting tables it only takes one really good tip to make my day, and that has the potential to put me in a great mood for the rest of the day.
This led me as I approached work on monday to wonder how a person’s multiple experiences with other people in a day might affect the rest of their day and how they treat the other people they interact with in that particular day. On monday I worked a 7 hour shift waiting tables and then went out to play pool with some friends after that. Between the people at my tables, the ones I took to-go orders from, held a door for, smiled and said thanks to, played pool with, saw at the gas station, etc. I interacted with 125 people on monday. Something pretty incredible started happening as I kept track of the people throughout the day, my mood kept incrementally getting better as I kept considering the affect I might be having on these people’s days, and incrementally it seemed to be spreading to everyone I encountered. My tables were all smiling, my coworkers seemed to be having a great shift, I made more money then I normally make on a monday, and I had a great time with my friends when I went out to play pool.
I think we drastically underestimate the affect that we have on the other people we interact with in a single day. We get so caught up in our own busy agendas. We forget to be genuine with the people that we actually encounter because we are too busy worrying about what we are doing later, who we are texting, etc. If we constantly remind ourselves of the reciprocated effect that we can have on the attitudes of others and their daily moods we can actually make a very positive impact on those things.
To take it a step further and debate the answer my friends gave me I used the numbers from my day off to estimate the reach of an average person in a day. Assuming that a person will have some sort of face to face interaction with 14 different people in a day, I used a permutation to figure out what that might mean. If I could realistically have a positive impact on all 14 people I interact with in a day and affect their day to a point that they positively impact the rest of the people they encounter in a day and it carries over exponentially until the day is over, how many people would that reach? The answer…87,178,291,200 people. That’s more then 10 times the population of THE EARTH!!!
Granted regardless of my good mood I may not be able to have a positive impact on EVERY single person I encounter in a day and likewise as it carries down the line, imagine the potential if several people would embrace this mindset every day!
So I say to you, remember today the potential you have in this life. You have the potential to love! Show that love to the people you meet today! Think about the things you could easily do today that might make another person’s day better. Forgive. Though a smile may have very little impact, it has far greater impact than a frown!
Each and every day we have a potential to accomplish whatever we want to…Today Use it For GOOD!
So the last test results I got were very good and far ahead of schedule, I was really hoping to hear this last month that on a molecular level the leukemia was completely gone. Those hopes may have been a little premature, as the standard for my treatment doesn’t generally have that happening until 18 months in and I’m still only at about 11 months. I am still on schedule with my treatment and they say everything looks good, but I was a little bummed because I just knew I was going to heal quicker than the doctors thought. Anyhow I am very glad to be on schedule. They are increasing the dosage of my medicine to help me get to the zero mark by 18 months, which means starting the first week of July I will have to go back to the doctor at least once a week to make sure my body can handle the increase in medicine without any adverse reactions. This will be a little bit of a pain but at the same time it’s kind of nice to have that reassurance on a weekly basis that everything is looking good.
On a physical aspect I have been feeling great the past few weeks. My doctor told me about two months ago that I needed to cut alcohol out completely and it has been a very good thing for me. I have been eating a lot healthier, lots of organic fruit and vegetables, plenty of vitamins and drinking lots of water. My energy levels are getting back to what they were prior to my diagnosis for the first time and I finally am grasping at some semblance of normalcy in my life!!!
As far as what I’m spending my time doing, I haven’t spent much time volunteering since I quit working with the LLS and moved back out on my own. Recently my pastor approached me about getting involved with the youth group at my church and last week I committed to teaching the junior high sunday school class. They have been without a teacher for the past few months and been lumped in with the high school kids so it should be fun to be able to give them their own class. It will feel good to be able to help the church that has been such an enormous piece of my life and helped me so much in my surviving this last year too!!
This saturday for the first time since my diagnosis I have been cleared by the doc to leave the state for vacation!!! I’ll be heading to the gulf down in Port O’Connor, Texas to do some red fishing! I feel like it has been ages since my last vacation so it will definitely be great to get away for a few days.
Lastly I leave you with this…What was the favorite part of your day today? Think about that every night before you go to bed, no matter how bad the day was, find something that was your favorite thing and be glad to be able to experience life today. We are all so lucky to be here and could accomplish so much more if we kept that in mind!!
Life gets hard and then when you think it can’t it gets harder, but at this point we can find grace in the simple beauty of being alive…and that’s what it’s all about.
Well it has been an interesting month and a half since my last update. First time I’ve gone a month without updating…sorry. I had a couple of setbacks in March, nothing relating to the leukemia but in other aspects of life. I mentioned applying for a position with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society awhile back and during the first part of March it was looking like I was going to get this position, but unfortunately I did not. It was a little dissappointing and a little embarassing because the reason I did not get the job was a flaw in my background check, a little over a year ago I got a DUI, completely understandable why such a thing could prevent someone from getting a job and I certainly regret the decision process that got me the DUI in the first place but it was a little disheartening to be told I wasn’t going to be doing what I thought was part of my calling in life.
After a couple of weeks I’ve had time to think a little more about it and I have always believed that everything happens for a reason, and so this too must be for some purpose, there’s something else I should be doing instead. Around the same time that I thought I was going to get the job I had expressed interest to my mom about riding in this 100 mile bike ride for the LLS’s Team In Training, in which I would have to do individual fundraising in order to participate in the ride. I didn’t have a bike though and figured this would prevent me to attempt to train for such a thing until I saved money for one. So here I have been for the past couple weeks sulking about my job situation when a friend of my mom tells us that she has a bike I could use if I was still interested in doing this ride.
Since my diagnosis I have not really given myself the opportunity to begin excercising on a regular basis again as I have been rehabing my ankle and working and volunteering so much that I did not think I would have the extra energy. My doctor and family have been telling me how it would help my energy levels that are slightly depleted as it is from the medecine if I could get back into a regular habit of excercising, and now in the midst of one door closing it seems another is opening. I have always been an athlete, and always been able to work hard and get better so I feel like the next endeavor for me is to begin training for a Team In Training 100 mile ride in Nevada in September and in the process raise as much money as I possibly can to help find a cure for blood cancers.
Now I just have to cross my fingers and hope the doc is going to be okay with me doing a 100 mile ride by September!
Either way I am alive and that in itself is a wonderful thing that I should not take for granted so I plan to continue striving to accomplish something good everyday regardless of everything else the world throws my way!
Well I got some good news from my recent lab results. Don’t take my words as 100% accurate because this is just how I understand it from what I’ve been told from doctors and what I’ve read about my treatment and CML.
Basically there is a mutation that occurs within my chromosomes that causes me to develop the leukemia. The 9th and 22nd chromosomes are switched and when it happens it causes the creation of a chromosome they call the Philadelphia Chromosome. There is a molecule they refer to as the BCR-ABL molecule that is a product of this mutation and the molecule is responsible for the mass production of these immature white blood cells (leukemia cells). The drug I am on (Tasigna) targets this BCR-ABL molecule and so that is what I have been tested for recently. The treatment plan calls for a hematalogic response within the first few months which was when my bloodwork normalized, and then there should be a decrease in the amount of BCR-ABL molecules present in my body until at 18 months I should have less than .1%. When I was tested around Thanksgiving I had .38% BCR-ABL levels, and my latest tests showed I have decreased to .13%.
So again I’m not an expert and am probably not explaining this correctly but the one thing I am sure of is that at 7 months into treatment I am very close to reaching the .1% level that I am suppose to be at at 18 months, so my doctor is very happy with my results!! Regardless I am very excited to have positive news and am grateful to have this treatment and my ability to resume a normalish life!
Well I certainly haven’t been posting as much as I intend to but life has been very busy of late. I’ve been volunteering with the Leukemia Lymphoma Society 4 or 5 days a week since the beginning of the year and working in the restaurants 6 nights a week. While it has been a little hectic and crazy busy, it has been fun too. I’ve had the opportunity to share a little of my personal battle with leukemia with about 20 different audiences by now, all the way from elementary school kids to adults.
A couple of the schools I have felt like I made a really great connection with some of the kids and I really hope that hearing someone’s experience first-hand will get them excited to help a good cause. It was pretty nerve racking the first few times I talked because I’ve never been much of a fan of public speaking, but I’m starting to get the hang of it a little better by now.
Health-wise I don’t have anything new to tell, I have an appointment on the 6th of February to find out how treatment is progressing. My side effects from the meds haven’t been too bad lately. Every once in awhile I will have a day where my stomach is a mess all day and I don’t want to eat anything, or I will overwork myself and wear my body out to a point that I have to just take a day and rest; but considering the alternative these are things I can definitely deal with. I’m slowly starting to understand my limits and realizing that my body just needs a little bit more rest then it used to.
The position I applied for with the LLS is not going to be filled until the new Executive Director starts at the end of February. So for now I am just continuing to volunteer with the School and Youth program and trying to make myself and my time as useful as I can while I’m there. It’s slightly frustrating because I have ideas constantly of different things I might be able to do in the position I’ve applied for, but I cannot do anything with them.
I must say that I do feel much better about the fact that I am atleast working towards accomplishing something good with my time, however minor that good might be right now, it’s a start.
I’ll post again much sooner hopefully!
–Joshua M. Andrews–
The beauty of a New Year is that it is new. You can reflect on the past year, on each success, each mistake, and come to a resolution for how you want to live the next year. I think it is important to come to a point of self-evaluation on a regular basis and look yourself in the mirror and say “Is this who I want to be?”
My answer “No, but you’re closer than last year.” We all have our resolutions that we make publicly of “I’m going to lose 20 lbs” “I’m going to quit smoking” “I’m going to go to church more” But really what’s important is the promises that we make to ourselves, the aspirations of who we want to be as individuals when we return to look ourselves in the eye at this time a year from now.
When I reflect on this, I can only come to one goal that I think important enough that it may bring complete satisfaction to the man in the mirror on January 1, 2013. I want to make a daily effort in 2012 to put others first, I want to put aside selfish desires of me, me, me and find happiness in the joy of those around me. I want to consider the good of the whole rather than my own well-being when I face difficult decisions. But finally most of all, I want to quit being a victim and start being a survivor; I want to wake each morning grateful for another day in this beautiful world and make the best of that day. I want to be grateful for the blessings I have and not dwell on the challenges life brings my way, and I want to help others who may be struggling to find a new joy in life.
My resolution is that we might all quit searching for that something more, envying what we don’t have; and start enjoying the beautiful life that we do have. Every day is something wonderful and we waste any day that we take that for granted.
Happy New Year!
–Joshua M. Andrews—
Someone said to me recently that they were proud of me for defining cancer rather than letting the cancer define me. The truth is that as of yet I have not done this. When I found out about my cancer I responded in as positive of a way as I could, because I believe that we need only in life to focus on the things we can change and not dwell on the things we cannot. However all I have done as of yet is talk about how I want to make efforts to accomplish good every day. Instead of actually doing this, lately I have been spending my time enjoying the fact that my health has improved and I have returned to the comfort of my old ways. I have not been defining the cancer because I have not had symptoms of the cancer, rather I have been letting life define me as I have gone back to my customs and habits as soon as I felt better.
I even have spent time dwelling on things like how my life won’t fully be able to return to normal because I have to take a pill twice a day that gives me indigestion occassionally and prohibits me from eating for 6 of the 24 hours of the day. I am one of a group of random people who develops cancer in their lifetime and I find time to feel sorry about the lifestyle changes I have to make while there are other members of this very same group who don’t know if they will be around long enough to worry about a lifestyle at all.
It’s time I stop talking and start doing. It’s time I stop letting life define me and start defining life. On monday I finally get an opportunity to do this as I begin my second volunteering opportunity with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) to aid them in their mission to fight blood cancers.
It sounds like a lot of what I will be doing is traveling to different schools across the state to participate in LLS activities during student assemblies with the goal of inspiring children of all ages to raise money for the causes of the LLS.
Please let me know if you have any interest in being a part of helping, updates on my activities with the LLS to come soon!!!
Thanks for reading,