A friend of mine likes to talk about “the karma truck” and it’s chances of running you over. I’ve pointed out that talking about it probably doesn’t help his chances, but some people just can’t be helped.
I wrote the last entry two weeks ago but I wasn’t going to post it. I’d shared it with Cheryl though, and she thought it was amusing. (It’s fine to love and lose, but I’d just as soon not precipitate the loss). Still, I didn’t want to offend anyone… mothers making up a large percentage of the reading public, and a fair portion of my audience (such as it is). The equation changed somewhat on Monday when I got clipped by my friend’s karma truck. I figured I might as well post it – if for no other reason than to give this one a little context. Besides, I’ve really enjoyed writing these last two paragraphs. They’re begging me for a raison d’être.
I had my quarterly visit with my oncologist on Monday. Her people drew some blood and ran the numbers, per usual. One number is normally out of range (my lymphocytes), but a couple more numbers were slightly out of range too. Still, my Doctor’s first reaction was, “this looks good.” It’s happened before and it was no big deal then. However, this time she followed it up with the most thorough physical exam since my initial diagnosis; asking me about localized pain, unexplained fevers, and checking all the places blood cells can collect when things go wrong (thumping my spleen and massaging my lymph nodes). I haven’t had any pain or fevers, but my answers seemed to surprise her. It could have been my imagination or deficient social skills, but it seemed like she was expecting a yes or two.
Well, by now I’ve revealed enough of myself and this visit for you to recognize the makings of a panic attack – the paralyzing variety. I’d planned to go back to work afterwards, but it was enough to send me home, take a pill, and chill.
We now return you to my appointment, already in progress.
I can put up a pretty good front as long as speech isn’t required. Not talking is a pretty revealing tell though. She tried to reassure me. “You’re fine,” she said. “I want to do a blood smear just in case, but everything looks great. Oh, and if you do have any unexplained pain or fever, give us a call right away.”
Um… ok. We need to work on our focus when we’re reassuring.
The last time they wanted to check my blood under a microscope it was to check for cell abnormalities – which they found. Oh, and wasn’t there an old revision of an AMA medical dictionary (before they went soft on bedside manner) that defined “right away” as “you better do it right fucking now before you drop dead?”
If I was smart, or I could string two meaningful words together under pressure, I would have asked questions, like: “Why do you want to take a closer look at my blood? Does something concern you? Why are you concerned about these particular symptoms?”
This is the part of the post where I tell you the worst thing that came from my little dance with leukemia two years ago was fear. It’s a scary word and I’m easily frightened.
Even if it did return to active duty, the kind I have is easily treated (relative to other cancers)… and none of this means it’s back. One of my numbers: a type of white blood cell that’s about half of what it should be, could be explained by a simple infection. Plus, the prior fight with my little hairy mutants left me with fewer of those cells to start with. I’m also two years into my remission. The chance of a reoccurrence at this point is quite low. There’s a window between ten and fifteen years where younger people tend to have another go at it, but I’m not there.
Hairy cell leukemia is quite rare already, but it’s even rarer in young people. It’s mostly a senior’s disease. (I never thought I’d be ahead of my time.) Over all relapse rates may be artificially low because patients tend to die of other, natural causes (not precipitated by the leukemia) before it has a chance to come back. However, I’ve been told that since I was so young, there’s a good chance it will eventually come back (unless I pick a fight with a truck in the mean time) but probably not now.
I’ve also been told that even if it does come back, there’s no change in treatment, and no change of prognosis – which is really good. The treatment is easy as chemotherapy goes (though I was an exception, requiring hospitalization – sensing a trend?), and the prognosis is excellent.
I’ve tried to show everything in it’s naturally occurring, good light in this post. I just wish I could make myself believe it. If it makes you feel any better, writing it down helped.