"That was my first question," he said. "Was I going to make it?"
A longtime student in martial arts, Abdul-Jabbar said he took the approach of a samurai, to face death without fear.
"I had my face on," he said.
Instead, doctors told him CML was treatable with proper medication and monitoring.
Abdul-Jabbar is a special assistant with the Lakers and said he hasn't had to cut back his level of activity of coaching, change his regimen or adjust his diet. "I'm able to sneak out for Thai food," he said.
"There is hope. This condition can be treated. You can still live a productive, full life," he said. "I'm living proof I can make it."
Abdul-Jabbar recently returned from an academic conference in Abu Dhabi and has several speaking engagements planned. Among the people he regularly talks to about his condition is his son, a third-year medical student at the University of California, San Francisco.
The six-time NBA MVP intends to post updates to his Facebook and Twitter accounts and stay connected through www.CMLearth.com, a Web site for those afflicted by the disease.
About 5,000 cases of CML are expected to be diagnosed in the United States this year, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society said. More than 22,000 people are living in the US with the disease.
The disease tends to initially be diagnosed by people in their mid-to-late 60s, and usually affects men more than women.
"I want to spread the word," Abdul-Jabbar said.