Living with cancer is sometimes like a roller coaster ride.
More than 46,000 Europeans get diagnosed with leukaemia every year, of which more than 6,000 get chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML). I became one of them in 2001, at the age of 28, and I suddenly found myself on that roller coaster.
A quick online search showed me that other people with CML were out there, forming grassroots patient networks. I soon got in touch with other patients like me. Everyone was desperately looking for information about the disease, about therapies and how to manage side effects, about new results from clinical trials – but mainly about how to cope and hope while having cancer. Everything seemed to have changed in my own life from one day to the next, but thanks to my link with the online community, I never felt alone.
Through my personal interest but also my involvement with the worldwide CML Advocates Network, I have made friends with cancer patients all across the world. What amazed me most was that everyone had a different story to tell, a different journey to travel, a different roller coaster to ride – but sharing those stories of hope and anxiety, of desperation and determination, of helping others and being helped, always gave me more energy than it took.
By coincidence my path crossed with photographer and CML patient Bert Spangemacher. Working with him on this book has certainly been very close to my heart. While much is out there about CML and medicine today, still little is known about what having cancer does to someone’s life. This book not only takes you on sixteen different journeys, showing the ups and downs of life with CML, but also spotlights a broader truth: that living with cancer is no one’s choice, but refocusing on the most important things in life can actually be an unforeseen advantage.
I really hope this book provides courage, hope and inspiration to all those living with cancer. It certainly did for me.