• lewiskempfer

The One with the Dodged Bullets

Updated: Jul 14, 2019

Blog Post #1 – June 5, 2019


Last week was a scary, emotionally charged week of worry. Nothing like having the oncology team at one Denver hospital scratching their heads over my abnormal blood test results and trends, then to be sent to the Cancer Pavilion/Blood Disorders Clinic of the state’s largest research hospital, University of Colorado Anschutz Campus. And nothing like opening my online patient portal and seeing my diagnosis a day before seeing my new specialist. The online chart listed a diagnosis of Large Granular Lymphocytic Leukemia. I’d already been scouring the web for any possible information before this little nugget popped up. Now I was convinced I was screwed.


Each night last week I was alone with my thoughts in my bed and freaking out and feeling completely helpless. The last time I felt this scared in regard to my health was waiting for the results of an HIV test.

It was a sleepless night prior to my first visit to UC Health. Fits of crying and lots of hating myself for having yet one more thing wrong with me. I tried to pray “Thy will be done” but slipped into old prayer habits repeating over and over the outcome I wanted: “Please don’t let this be cancer. Or at the very least, nothing that requires chemo. Please, please, please...”


I was stronger than I thought I could be on appointment day. I listened to favorite music on the way down and sat calmly in the waiting room. A very good-looking guy sat near me, then across from me in the lab. We exchanged smiles and it was a nice moment of human connection. I wondered what “he was in for.” I decided the extra weight did not make him less attractive.


I sat in the exam room barely able to breath from fear. A wall pocket had a folder labeled “Oral Chemo.” I didn’t dare look. I prayed again, then just sat numb. It was the closest I’d been all week to placing the situation in God’s hands.

The doctor came in ten minutes late and I did my best to be strong and not overwhelm him with questions. I told him what I saw on my chart, and he said he wished diagnoses weren’t published on patient accounts before he had a chance to explain them. He drew diagrams of blood cells and the two paths my LGL leukemia could follow. At this point, the pendulum has swung to the chronic side, not requiring treatment—not just yet. The other path was malignant cancer. The pendulum could swing the opposite direction, although he’s not expecting it too.

I actually couldn’t believe that I dodged the cancer bullet—for now. I had it so set in my head that I was doomed. So much so that I was tongue-tied and missed my opportunity to ask lots of questions.


Since the day of the appointment I’ve felt a little lighter, and have been trying to like myself just a little, and to go easier on myself. Liking myself comes before loving myself. It’s a process. To be ok with the gray hair and the tired eyes in the mirror as well as with the spare tire around my midsection. If there’s one takeaway from this close-call, it’s that I have to stop hating myself and to give myself a break. And to stop worrying people with scary Facebook posts.

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© 2019 by Lewis Kempfer

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