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Hope Interview

Hope Interview

Hope Is My Absolute: a woman’s battle to conquer leukemia.

An Interview with Alexandra Tesluk, author of Hope is My Absolute:

PageOneLit: Your new book is “Hope is My Absolute: My Journey with Acute Monocytic Leukemia.” For those that don’t know, what is AML and when were you diagnosed?

Alexandra: AML is one of four major types of leukemia (CLL, CML, ALL, AML). Leukemia is a cancer of the blood-forming tissues of the bone marrow. Within the bone marrow, blood cells all start out as stem cells. They mature and become red cells, white cells, or platelets. Leukemia, which means “white blood,” is a cancer of the white cells. White cells or leukocytes are infection fighters. There are three main types of leukocytes: monocytes, lymphocytes, and granulocytes. Acute Monocytic Leukemia (AML) affects only the white cells that are monocytes.

My type of blood cancer gives very little warning! It happened very quickly. In October of 2008, I thought I was fighting the flu and only after blood-work was the diagnosis confirmed. I was hospitalized immediately and thus began my course of induction chemotherapy, which consisted of the drug Daunorubicin, and high doses of ARA-C. I was in hospital for one month and then began a regime of four consolidation chemotherapy treatments on an outpatient basis.

PageOneLit: Why did you write “Hope”?

Alexandra: “Hope” illustrates how to take a life-challenging situation and face it bravely. “Hope” serves to move, inform, reassure and assist readers in their own personal journey.

My journey with leukemia took me beyond any perimeters I had previously known. I don’t sugarcoat the physical or emotional pain of dealing with a life threatening diagnosis. I write with tears, courage, love and some humor.

PageOneLit: What is your definition of “Hope”?

Alexandra: “Hope” is very personal and is different for each person.

Being a cancer patient made it tough for me to be hopeful at times. Hope is my belief that a positive outcome lies ahead. It’s my way of thinking and feeling and helps me find ways to live with challenging situations. Hope is flexible; hope changes as your life changes. Only you will know the best way for you to hope.

Hope may not be easy to find. The changes that come with cancer can sometimes be overwhelming and cause a great deal of uncertainty. Hope can help you move forward despite bad news and disappointments. Even if the challenges that you must deal with are large ones, hope can help you find the strength and courage to face them.

There is no right or wrong way to hope. Hope is always anchored to our being. We would be lost without it. Hope grows best in a garden nourished by optimism. It shapes my way of looking and responding to this beautiful life.

PageOneLit.: Cancer therapy helped me put things into perspective, some doors needed to be closed and others opened. Explain.

Alexandra: We often hear “not to burn bridges, not to close doors.” Throughout our lives, we experience many doors opening and closing. Sometimes we need to close a door in order to open another. Some doors remain closed but never locked, to be opened again at a later period. Other doors once closed, needed to remain locked and never opened again. My private doors were weighing me down and resulted in a meltdown a year after my diagnosis, a form of post-traumatic stress.  Therapy focused on those open doors where energy leaks were being depleted.  I needed to re-examine and re-focus those doors. I came away with an optimistic and stronger drive. Post-traumatic stress is quite common among cancer patients.

PageOneLit.: Was there any documentation of a journal (personal/medical) early in your diagnosis that helped write “Hope?”

Alexandra: I tried to journal when my mind was clear. And when chemo fog would visit, a blank wall would not let me move forward. My link with the outside world was by email while in hospital and when discharged.  I re-read those entries many times and chuckled at some of my notations.  MyChart (Sunnybrook’s electronic patient record system) put my health and wellness at my fingertips and empowered me during treatment and post-treatment. I also learned a lot about my diagnosis. I did not visit MyChart until after my release from hospital. I wrote off and on for a year before “Hope” took shape.

PageOneLit: Looking back what advice would you give to some that told you today they just found out that they have cancer?

Alexandra: It’s customary to be overwhelmed, to try to grasp how fast one’s world can change. We have two voices with cancer ~ the breakable and the resilient. It’s important to retain your resilient voice. I firmly believe one’s faith, love, prayer and family support are the key ingredients to staying focused for a positive recovery. Surround yourself with loving and caring people.

Educate yourself. Become an information seeker.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions; the answers are out there. Don’t be afraid to formulate short and long-term goals for yourself.

Courage!  Don’t be afraid and never give up! Believe in yourself. Believe in your doctors. The most important part is your own firm conviction: you are invincible and can overcome this. Put on your boxing gloves. You can fight this and will!

PageOneLit: What do you HOPE to achieve with “Hope?”

Alexandra: Having a diagnosis of leukemia does not mean a death sentence. I think it is important to create the “private” “public” so that others diagnosed with leukemia feel less ominous about their diagnosis. There are many books available on breast cancer but few on leukemia. I hope my journey will help others cope with the fear and apprehension of a leukemia diagnosis (or any type of cancer) and will convey an understanding in what is important to healing and recovery during and after treatment. This can be an important source of hope.

PageOneLit: What was the last book you read?

Alexandra: I re-read “Passage from England” by Frank Zajaczkowski while travelling to Europe last month.  It is Frank’s emotional chronicle of his search for “home.” “Passage” interweaves the adventures and tragedies of Frank’s childhood in America’s 50s and 60s and ends with his experiences of retirement in the Virgin Islands ~ a memoir that has affected me profoundly and now sits prominently in my library of favorites!

PageOneLit: What is next?

Alexandra: I think a little break for now! I am re-visiting “The Ashes of Innocence” with a 2nd printing and new Epilogue.

I am co-authoring an article on “Adoption and Reunions” which I had written about in “Ashes.” I share my perspective on the different stages that takes place in reunions: from the “honeymoon phase,” to acceptance and acknowledgement and the anguish of rejection. It will serve as an educational tool for many parents and children facing this “catch-22.” That should be out soon.

PageOneLit: Do you have any hobbies? What are they? How do they enhance your writing?

Alexandra: I love writing!!  To journal is therapy for me. Reading a good novel, travelling and decorating would top my list. My two beautiful felines are a hobby in itself! I look at life differently now after having a diagnosis of cancer. I have no guarantees with my leukemia. I live in the moment and cherish each and every day that I am gifted with. And as a second thought, perhaps there will be another book around the corner! :)