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CLL: Reprioritizing Health Post-Diagnosis

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Published on February 10, 2020

Key Takeaways

  • Taking back control with diet and lifestyle choices is one approach for coping with CLL.
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Chronic lymphocytic leukemia patient advocate Jay Blatt and clinical social worker Maryellen Collamore discuss what others can do to make health a priority and have hope after a cancer diagnosis. Watch as Jay shares his determination to continue to enjoy life after receiving a CLL diagnosis  by choosing to exercise more, eat better and help others.

This program is sponsored by Pharmacyclics. This organization has no editorial control. It is produced solely by Patient Power.

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Transcript | CLL: Reprioritizing Health Post-Diagnosis

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.

Michele Nadeem-Baker:

Jay, I would love to hear from you about when you were diagnosed because if I remember correctly, you’re still on watch and wait, so you’re still in limbo, but you’re doing well, but you also said you have a company—advertising and publishing company—so, emotionally, how did this impact you?

Jay Blatt:                              

Well, it really made me realize that I enjoyed the advertising business, but it’s like, no one’s going to give you the Nobel Peace Prize for shaking a guy’s hand, running away with his money, and making it ad. It’s nice, and we need that in the world—we need people to help people promote their business—but for me, I had been doing it for a very long time.

I was officially diagnosed when I was about 62 years old, so it just changed my whole persona, and my ambition was now to do whatever I could to mess with the disease. It was bullying me, and I just got mad. I said, “You know what? I’m not going to put up with this. I’m going to change my life, I’m going to try and do something where I can first help myself, and then, I’ll retire a little bit early or become semi-retired, and I’d like to try and help other people have hope.”

 

And, the thing is you have to have hope. If you just sit around like a bump on a log and you’re only putting your faith in miracle pills, it’s not enough because that anxiety, that “What if?”, that “When’s the next shoe going to fall?” or whatever that expression is—you’re just not going to be happy, you’re not going to feel safe. So, for me, it just changed my whole life. I wanted to pursue something that I always was interested in, and that was diet and exercise. I began studying.

I wanted to do things—I looked at—every time I did something that would make me feel healthier and make me feel more vital and more alive, and like I was going to make it through this—every little thing I could think of to do to improve my situation, I did. So, the exercising, the suddenly realizing that what’s important in life is being kind and helping people, and accepting help—these are things that sound hokey, and you can go your whole life if you’re healthy and never realize just how important it is to wake up in the morning and not worry about being sick.

So, I took all that to heart, and it changed me. I don’t want to sound so mushy, but I really feel this way. This has been, for me, an opportunity to grow as a human being. Yeah, I got sick, but so many other people get sick, and the idea is how do you bounce back? How do you make a comeback and never forget to love life? You do it through determination. I forget the exact phrase, but “Preparation brings opportunity,” so you have to prepare and make that commitment that there’s plenty of life left, and you’re going to fight to hold onto it.

Maryellen Collamore:                  

I love that you’re able to do that and allow the situation to—like you said—really change you as a person. You integrated this diagnosis into your life, and it’s changed your life. I think everybody’s unique and individual in how we cope, and so, for some people, that phrase “Bully it back” might be a little too much, but for other folks, that will just give them the vigor that they need to really push ahead. I think again, it’s acknowledging what works for you, and that’s so wonderful that you were able to really make a shift in your identity.

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.

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