Cancer Chronicles: Diagnosis
Mom is so proactive! I casually mentioned to her that I had an outstanding lab test at the doctor's and she told me to go take care of it immediately. I don't know why I was dragging my feet but, until that moment, I was. The hospital is so conveniently located, that when she and I hung up the phone, I decided to walk straight over and take care of business. My blood was drawn and I headed home, all within a period of no more than 30 minutes.
Mom didn't want me to just have the lab done, she wanted me to seriously examine the results, and when they came in, I did. According to the healthy ranges listed on the results pages, everything was normal except my white blood cell count, which was significantly lower than it should be. At Mom's encouragement, I emailed my amazing doctor to find out what a low WBC could possibly mean. She replied that it was strange and asked me to go back in to repeat the test. I did so twice more and each time everything appeared normal except for the stubbornly low white blood cell count.
Eventually, my doctor referred me to a hematologist. I really didn't think too much of the referral until I found out that the department I'd be visiting is actually called the "Oncology/Hematology Infusion Center." Yikes!
I had been feeling my best, fittest, and healthiest self, so it was pretty hard to fathom suddenly speaking with someone in a department specializing in cancer.
My visit to this new doctor was pleasant and quite comforting. She said that my youth paired with my healthy lifestyle and otherwise normal blood counts meant that my white blood cells were likely off fighting a cold of some kind and that the numbers would bounce back in no time at all. She set an appointment for another blood test one month later in order to confirm her suspicions.
After the lab tests in February gave way to the same low WBC, she said she still wasn't convinced anything serious could possibly be going on, so she suggested keeping an eye on things by repeating the lab once more in March, and I did...
I wouldn't say I'm ill because I'm feeling superb, but my WBC has been low since November and now my red blood cells and platelets are starting to diminish, too. The doctor just called and said the next step is a bone marrow biopsy. Her feeling is that it still may be nothing, but at this point it'd be best to confirm. An option was offered to me; go in for the biopsy right away or wait a couple of weeks in case my numbers level out in the interim. I opted to have the invasive outpatient procedure done sooner rather than later because of everything I'm been hearing in the news about COVID-19. The date is set for tomorrow to determine whether or not my body is struggling to make healthy blood. I suspect if that's not the case, it means something is destroying my healthy blood faster than I can produce it.
PART 1 - The bone marrow biopsy was bizarre to say the least! I could feel all the stuff INSIDE my bones moving around as they withdrew the sample of my marrow. I was laying, facedown on a gurney of sorts with my pants lowered just below my hipline. Some local anesthesia made the poke itself practically painless, but didn't do anything to subdue the odd sensation of having bone drilled. It felt like there a crank was lowering the aspirator down and into my hip. At one point, probably upon the tool's initial breakthrough, I jumped. My one job was to stay as still as possible, but I simply couldn't help it. Despite the absence of pain, there was something jarring about the vibratory movement and sounds I was able to make out internally. It was a pretty quick procedure... I'm glad I did it and glad it's done. I laid on my back on the gurney with pressure held against the point of entry. After about 20 minutes, they told me I was all set to head home.
They said they'll have me back on Thursday or Friday to review the results. Whatever comes of it, they expect to be treatable... so that's good!
PART 2 - Yikes! Surprise! I'm back at the doctor's office because the bleeding won't stop. By the time I got home, blood had seeped through my pants and sweatshirt. I called and they told me to return so they could put pressure on and redress the opening. I feel totally fine, but they're keeping an eye and a ton of pressure on me for a little while. It's certainly worth noting that when someone is bleeding, the kind of pressure that should be applied is substantial - like all your might, like pushing to the extent that it feels like a workout. Turns out, if you don't feel like Hercules when you're holding a wound shut, you're not doing it properly!
PART 1 - The doctors just called and said they believe they have a diagnosis for me, but won’t know for sure until one more test result comes in; likely later tonight or early tomorrow. They want me to start taking some kind of specialized medication right away and then I’ll spend the day in the hospital tomorrow or Thursday getting whatever it is in heavy doses. What I have is apparently treatable and very good to have caught so early! I’ll report the names of these things when they are finally revealed to me... I’m not worried. In fact, I’m laughing! Hahahaaaa! Are they really going to cure of some illness that’s been plaguing me while I feel great!? I mean, is it possible life could get better from here!?!?
PART 2 - The diagnosis is in... I have Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia. Wow. I'm told that it is incredibly urgent and that I must begin treatment tomorrow morning at 8:30am. I guess I'll have to live at the hospital for the next 3-4 weeks!? I'm moving in.
I just took my first dose of the oral chemo they prescribed and am now packing up for a staycation of sorts at my local Cancer Center. This is all happening so fast!
I think I'll use the time to learn the piano... that'll be my goal to make the most of all this unexpected personal time. I have a keyboard I can plug into my computer, and headphones, so I can practice without bugging anyone.
They tell me that I’m going to have my own room and bathroom 🌈
So there’s that - my very own little rainbow in a suddenly overcast sky.