Hair loss, deadly bacteria, and lessons from Leukemia

Watching Isabelle lose her hair is traumatic.  We knew it would happen; yet seeing it happen is wrong. Now, when I run my fingers through her hair, usually a little bit comes out each time.

Physical evidence of disease is harder than the thought sometimes

We are about two months into treatment for Isabelle’s Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. Everything is going like clockwork. We caught the leukemia extremely early and her body is responding exactly as they had planned. In fact, three weeks ago they ran a minimum residual disease test on her. It showed no Leukemia! Now we are just running into two years and one month of treatment to prevent relapse.

Hair loss is part of the plan. Yet physically seeing it is harder than the thought ever was. 

I suppose this plays out in other areas of life too. And in other diseases. As long as I think of something intellectually it’s easier for me to grapple with it.

It’s kind of like a funeral

For example, I am a pastor. I have officiated about 10 funerals so far. In every funeral I’ve done there is any sort of intellectual detachment I am responsible for. There are simply things that need to be said and done regardless of how I feel. Yet, no matter how distant I am to the deceased it gets hard when I actually do the funeral and see the body. It’s not that seeing a dead body makes me queasy. It is simply, when I see the deceased individual I am reminded of how real and painful death is.

My goal: greater empathy

I hope I can maintain the empathy going forward to realize that the presence of pain is worse than the thought. It will always be easier for me to think about someone else’s problems then to live them out. I need to be very intentional about working hard to empathize with others. I need to be more intentional about recognizing that I don’t know how they feel when they are actually physically going through something.

Emotions defy logic and overpower it.

Picture an elephant, a 2000 pound behemoth. Now picture an elephant driver…A little guy with a stick perched behind the elephant’s neck. The driver knows where the elephant needs to go because he can think logically and strategically. Yet, he will not make a whit of progress if a tiger scares the elephant. 

(Credit for this elephant of an illustration comes from Chip and Dan Heath’s book Switch.)

The elephant is your emotions and the little driver is your logic. 

If your emotions are weighed down by something your logic will have a tough go of it. If you emotionally dislike someone or something it will be hard for you to logically overcome that. 

The elephant in our lives is how we feel about Isabelle’s sickness. Our logic is telling us it’s not a big deal she is losing her hair. Yet, Ashley and I constantly have to slow down and realize we feel traumatized by the stuff going on.

My goal: greater sensitivity

I hope as I Live tonight, tomorrow, and the next day I will take time to recognize where I and Ashley are emotionally. Then, I will act to love on Ashley recognizing the elephant in the room. 

How can you check in emotionally with people in your life? How can you address that elephant in the room?

“The greatest harm that would likely happen to Isabelle is bacteria from her mouth or stomach. It’s not the virus that she will catch from a friend.”

 The doctor said.

The irony we learned today is the danger that Isabelle faces from within Her immune system is not doing great. So we are super careful not to be around sick people. The things she’s most likely to catch from someone else is a virus. Yet, for some reason the most dangerou thing for her to catch is a bacterial infection not a virus. And the source of that bacterial infection will most likely be her mouth or her stomach!

Isabelle is most at danger from bacteria already inside her body. 

Essentially, what will happen is that her immune system gets depressed by chemo and bacteria is allowed to proliferate. What will probably happen sometime over the next two years is hospitalization because of a bacterial infection.

We are most at danger from the problems already inside our bodies.

From the Bible to the rest of modern life today the most devastating things are moral failures. Look through history, men and women fall from purpose filled lives by virtue of moral failures. We don’t need a sickness to hurt us. We can do it ourselves.

My goal: purpose filled living

My goal for tonight and tomorrow is to be consumed by the purposes that God lays out for me. I will live recognizing that I already have bacteria/sins in my body that can seriously harm me. I will work hard to make my spiritual immune system strong. 


I really don’t know if I will be able to live out what I’ve learned today. But, I have stopped and taken a moment to look at life. I have recognized problems. I hope by doing this I will live on purpose for God better. 

The physical presence of maladies is harder than I thought. Emotions are powerful and deserve to be addressed. Perhaps the greatest danger I and you face is already inside us.

4 thoughts on “Hair loss, deadly bacteria, and lessons from Leukemia

Add yours

  1. Sadly, it takes us walking the walk to truly understand the experience. This blog made me think about the things God allows us to experience and why? Yes, greater empathy, greater sensitivity.

    Liked by 1 person

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