Mediaplanet sat down with basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to discuss his experience with leukemia and learn what advice he has for others dealing with a life-changing diagnosis.

Mediaplanet: What kind of cancer were you diagnosed with?

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: I was diagnosed with Philadelphia chromosome-positive chronic myeloid leukemia. It’s a slow, progressive blood cancer.

MP: How did you feel when you received your diagnosis?

KAJ: I actually had a close friend who died from a type of leukemia not long before my diagnosis, so I was scared I’d be facing the same fate. It’s hard for anyone to think about having cancer. But staying alive was my motivation.

MP: What advice would you give to someone who’s been recently diagnosed with cancer?

KAJ: Stay positive, get all the facts, and lean on your support network — with real community there’s real strength. Most importantly, listen to your doctor and follow whatever treatment regimen they give you. Don’t try to improvise with your medicine.