Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was diagnosed last December with chronic myeloid leukemia. Wow. We all know that leukemia can be deadly serious and life threatening. Yet we are told that he is taking an oral medication for the disease and has a very good chance to live his life out and not have to make any drastic changes with his lifestyle. According to an article published by AP writer, Ben Walker on 11/10/09, about 5,000 cases of CML are expected to be diagnosed in the United States this year, according to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. More than 22,000 people are living in the US with the disease. The disease tends to initially be diagnosed with people in their mid-to-late 60s, and usually affects men more than women.
So, what now? Is it all good? Can we truly move on and assume that he will be able to continue his role as a special assistant to head coach Phil Jackson? First, let’s take a look at some things that we know about the man. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is a six-time most valuable player who retired from the National Basketball Association in 1989. That is why this revelation made the AP wire and ESPN television news. But, there lies a very important fact that I think should get a great deal of emphasis. He was not feeling quite right and went to get a check up. I cannot say that I would have done the same. I am the type that shakes off my aches and pains. I stupidly ignore things that thus far have not caused me long term harm or have turned out to be life threatening. In this case, ignoring his symptoms could have been a grave mistake. Left untreated, his condition could have been fatal.
According to the web page, “mayoclinic.com/health/chronic-myelogenous-leukemia/DS00564”, “Chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) is an uncommon type of cancer of the blood cells. The term “chronic” in chronic myelogenous leukemia indicates that this cancer tends to progress more slowly than acute forms of leukemia. The term “myelogenous” in chronic myelogenous leukemia refers to the type of cells affected by this cancer.” In our terms, this is a rare form of blood cancer. Symptoms can include low grade fever, extremely tiredness, getting infections more easily and anemia. All pretty general in nature, and easily taken as not serious, these are signs that can actually signify a serious disease.
So, let us give credit to Abdul-Jabbar. His decision to go public with his condition will serve as a public service. The awareness of yet another life threatening condition has now been heightened. This is one time where being a celebrity has benefited allot of “every day” people. He put aside his personal values about remaining private and took the initiative to go public. He still faces an uphill battle and in fact has a rare form of cancer. Let us be thankful that he had the courage to come forward. I, for one, will include him in my prayers. kareem abdul-jabbar los angeles lakers