Shifting Gears: Looking and Finding the Positive

It seems that my life, and I’m sure all of yours, provides endless opportunities for me to look for and focus on the Positive parts of my Challenges. In fact I believe that facing any type of Challenge really is that opportunity to look for good things in a situation that may appear to be “bad”. And there is a part of me that feels I have mastered the process, if that is possible.

And as you may have guessed I have found another great example to share with you… for those of you who have been with me for a long time you may remember what a struggle I had making my first Transplant decision, as I really didn’t have complete comfort with my two major options – 1. having the Transplant or 2. not having it -. You may also remember that the main reason for my discomfort came from one major side-affect of the Bone Marrow Transplant process, that side-affect is sterility.

In the middle of my 2nd round of chemotherapy (Game 2), I began to have discussions with my Docs about my future treatment, and a Transplant was the main part of the discussion. I was given some information and had a fairly detailed discussion with my Doc at the time, after which I was left to explore the process for myself, with my family. As I was reviewing the information I noticed the last bullet of info on the page and in a word it said “Sterility”, which I asked my Doc about and learned that “yes that’s a certainty” (99.9%).

For a Patient who had already had their family that might not have been an issue, but as a 23 year old guy, who is the oldest grandchild and has always had little kids running around at family gatherings, I didn’t like the idea of letting go of the possibility that I would one day have my own kids. Not something I was ready to do at that point, but not something I wanted to take off the list at any level.

At that point I decided that one possible way for me to negate that side-affect would be to bank my sperm, which I attempted to do in Toronto. So instead of flying to Toronto for just one day to have my Pre-Transplant assessment, I spent a week there attempting to bank my sperm, but was unsuccessful as the previous rounds of chemo had left me sterile – most probably temporarily I was told, but sterile. I then thought, no problem I’ll have more chemo, then wait 4-6 months for my sperm to recover, bank then, and come back to Toronto for my Transplant. My Transplant Doc informed me that my disease doesn’t work like that, and the Transplant if it was going to be done, had to be done soonest.

So I returned home for another round of chemo and to think through my Transplant decision, which I did ultimately decide to have… one of the toughest decisions of my life. But I decided that giving myself a 70% chance to be here in 5 years, and be sterile, was a better option than a 20% chance with most definitely no sterility.

This week I have had a second test done, to confirm what was found 3 ½ years ago when I was tested, and my tests have confirmed that I am sterile. It’s important to note that this is exactly what I was expecting, however I still do have a small level of frustration and here’s the source.

I went in hospital on a Friday night, was diagnosed 3 days later, and started treatment 3 days after that, and at no point during those 6 days did anyone discuss the sperm banking option with me, at no point did anyone talk to me about the sterility issue. That is a source of frustration for me, partially because there is a part of me that loves the idea of having my own kids, but also and mainly because if I had had the opportunity to bank my sperm my first week in hospital it would have made a very tough Transplant decision much easier.

There is of course no guarantee that I would have been able to bank my sperm, as often Patients in the condition that I was are unable, but that is hardly the issue for me. I feel one of the most important things in life is choice, and as a Patient at that time someone/something took that decision away from me. That is a breakdown in the system, and I always feel that a major part of tackling any Challenge is awareness of it, so now I and we have that.

Complementing the system breakdown, presently when young Patients are presented with situations similar to mine, and they are informed of the sterility issues, they are often given the option of travelling to Halifax, at their own expense, prior to treatment, to attempt to bank their sperm. In my case, and for many other Patients, this isn’t much of an option at all, the costs associated with travel and for many Patients their current health and energy present major obstacles for this traveling option. Another Challenge.

So we need to work on getting the information to Patients so that they can make the best decision for them, and there is room for improvement once they have that information by giving them a local option that is accessible.

As I sit today and reflect on my present situation I do want to communicate that this week’s test isn’t a disappointment to me. I am a little saddened with the reality, but it is one that I chose 3 1/2 years ago when I had my Transplant, and one that I accepted then. There’s nothing I can do to change my sterility, however I do feel that I can make great contribution to helping other Patients who are or will be where I once was, to help get them the information that I never had and also help provide options for them to tackle the sterility Challenge if they so choose.

At some level I can see the option of sitting here bitching about my situation, being mad at the world, mad at the system for letting me down, but I know that that wouldn’t really deal with my issue. For me the best way that I can deal with this Challenge is to make the effort to help someone else, so that’s what I’ll do with a letter I have written to the appropriate official in the St. John’s Healthcare Corporation.

I have said it before and I’ll say it another million times… this concept of being Positive when you are facing a Challenge, it’s a theory that works for everything in life, I’m trying it out in a real tough spot and it holds there, and I can promise you that if it holds for me in these tough spots, it holds in every area of life.

I will keep you updated on my progress with the Healthcare Corp, but I wouldn’t hold my breath for a response next week or anything, but hopefully I’ll instigate some change that I know is already under way. Just wanted to share another example of how being Positive helps me deal with life’s Challenges. Have a good one and I’ll be back soon.
Always…
Live life. Love life.

Geoff

Tags: ,