It’s only temporary.
That’s the good news and the bad news of being alive, according to “Californification” and “Sex and the City” co-star Evan Handler.
Handler, 48, who defied death by overcoming acute myeloid leukemia at the age of 28, recently wrote a book in which he details his “journey from anger to the truest sense of gratitude.”
Aptly, he has titled the book “It’s Only Temporary: The Good News and Bad News of Being Alive.”
Currently on a multi-city promotional tour, Handler stopped by FOXNews.com to discuss his memoir.
“I am still prone to the same difficulties any other person is,” Handler said. “My circumstances are just heightened. Any other person may not be aware of how lucky they are to be alive.”
Originally from Croton-Harmon, N.Y., a suburb of New York City, Handler was an understudy for Neil Simon's "Biloxi Blues" Broadway production when he was diagnosed with AML. He said he was horrified and unprepared to hear about his diagnosis.
“It was very discombobulating,” Handler said. “There’s no way to be prepared for that kind of news.”
Essentially, Handler was handed a death sentence. AML starts in the bone marrow, and “acute” means the leukemia is a fast spreading cancer, so it can spread to other organs more quickly than many other cancers.
About 44,000 new cases of leukemia will be diagnosed in America this year, according to the American Cancer Society’s Web site, and of those, 13,290 of them will be AML.
More than 8,800 patients will die from AML this year, according to the cancer society.
Almost all of those patients will be adults. The average age of an AML patient is 67, but Handler was just 24 when he was diagnosed.
In his book, Handler describes his experiences as a patient at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City during the 1990s:
It was a hospital I’d found to be saturated by arrogance and rife with practices that made the chances for recovery even more remote than might ordinarily be expected from an incurable illness. There was a drastic nursing shortage when I was a patient at Sloan-Kettering and the staff seemed overburdened and under inspired. Over the course of my hospitalizations I’d been medicated with intravenous drugs labeled with the names of patients other than myself, pressured to accept ill-advised procedures and handled by staff members who refused to follow the hospital’s posted hygiene precautions for touching immunosuppressed patients like myself.
“Hospitals are places created to deliver efficient healthcare at once, not superior health care to any one person,” Handler said. “So, a lot of work and effort has to go into making sure you get superior health care.”
Sloan-Kettering declined to comment on Handler's thoughts about their past patient care, however, they did have kind words for him.
"We wish Mr. Handler continued good health and success in his career," said Christine Hickey, director of communications and media relations of Sloan-Kettering.
Handler, who also wrote a book about his cancer diagnosis called "Time on Fire," said he doesn’t consider himself a health care advocate, but he does try to create a dialogue about the situation he was in and express his opinions.
Somehow, Handler persevered through the tough times. He recovered from leukemia after receiving a bone marrow transplant.
“I don’t know if I can attribute (my recovery) to any one thing specifically,” Handler said. “I was very lucky. But I wasn’t always positive. I had a lot of rage. I got better so I could have revenge. I didn’t have to be happy to get through it. That didn’t mean I wasn’t hopeful, but rage is equally powerful.”
Although Handler was successful as an actor, he wasn’t always lucky in love. In 20 years he would date 10 women — and manage to break up 27 times, which he writes about in excruciating detail.
But his luck changed around the same time he found fame playing a charming divorce lawyer named Harry Goldenblatt on HBO's “Sex and the City." That's when he met Elisa Atti, the Italian-born scientist he would eventually wed.
Handler, who thought his chances of fathering a child were literally one in a million (due to the extensive chemotherapy treatments he had received), was surprised when his wife got pregnant, and he is now the proud father of Sofia, 21 months:
We got to the hospital four hours into Elisa’s labor. There I witnessed something I’d never experienced. I saw medical care administered with all the gallantry, haste, and heroism we’re led to expect from television shows like “ER.” Everything I’d hoped for, but never seen, during my extended health crisis twenty years earlier was on display.
Despite his anxieties — a side effect not uncommon to cancer survivors — Handler said in his book he is more willing to face the end of his life now that he has found pleasure in it.
The past few years have been good to Handler. He recently reconnected with his "Sex and the City" co-stars to release the much anticipated big screen version. A sequel to the movie may be in the works and Handler said he would happy to reprise his role.
Until then, you can catch Handler on "Californication," playing David Duchovny's best friend Charlie Runkle. The show has earned rave reviews and Handler credits Duchovny as a good friend in real life.
... My strongest sensation, the first night Elisa and I sat staring into the penetrating eyes of our newborn daughter, was that my previous life — the one that had haunted me for so long, but that I’d finally made peace with — was about to be replaced with a far more interesting one.