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  • Writer's pictureSally Kalksma

Just Because You Can Doesn't Mean You Should


This past Saturday, I was honored on stage at the Leukemia Lymphoma Society's Big Climb at the One Gateway building in Newark, NJ. It was a bittersweet day being recognized as an elite stair climber who had battled blood cancer. It took a lot of mental fortitude to proudly stand on stage instead of at the starting line like usual. Especially at a building that I won, not once, but twice during previous races. My sister Jo joined me for the honor on Saturday and helped to hold me back from running to the stairwell and racing up to the top. I had to remind myself that just because I could, doesn't mean I should.

Recently I was hospitalized for six days. I was mad about it. I vowed I wouldn't let myself be hospitalized again. I knew I would have to change my approach to winning the game of life. It became clear that I can't keep doing the same thing over & over again because my enemy (my cancer) will figure out my strategy.

Several medical professionals told me "I had to slow down". So I made a plan for my new "proverbial" normal. I realized stopping certain things in your life that you have enjoyed & have done well does not mean you lost. One must look at the bigger picture to win. It takes a lot of physical and mental grit to restrain oneself as it does to push oneself. What I did 10 years ago isn't working now—the game is different.

One of the most important lessons I learned from living with multiple myeloma is that the healthier I am going into treatment, the better and quicker I will respond. I had thought I was in good shape when I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma at the age of 47. But there I was learning that I was sick, I had cancer.


I decided I needed to make some changes and train harder before starting treatment. This was reinforced when my oncologist told me I recovered from my stem cell transplant so quickly because I was in top shape.

I held onto that. I vowed that I must be in phenomenal fighting shape so that I can overcome all the battles ahead. And now the way in which I stay in top physical fighting shape means something different. It means not being overworked. It doesn't mean giving up entirely but simply adjusting to and listening to my body's needs. Knowing when to rest and knowing when to push. I have made a new plan for beating anything that comes my way. A great strategy to living a longer healthier life is to make adjustments along the way. You must take care of your body so it can take care of you.

— Sally

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