This article is the first installment of a two-part story describing the details leading up to my diagnosis with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia.
All my life, I’ve been blessed with extraordinarily good health. At age 53 I didn’t even have a regular doctor. Other than having my tonsils out as a child, I’ve never spent any time in the hospital. It turns out that just because you feel good most of the time, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have regular check-ups. Of course, hindsight is always 20/20, isn’t it?
In early October of 2012 I made a doctor’s appointment. I had some swollen glands in my neck that I had noticed a few times in the past, but didn’t give me much worry, as they had always faded away over a short period of time. This time they were lingering for a while, and becoming visually noticeable.
When I explained to the doctor what I was there for, he began to feel around my neck, and started asking about any other symptoms. The first he inquired about was fatigue, which was also something that was actually on my mind. I work long hours, and always have, which accounts for a normal amount of tiredness, but lately it was much worse than normal.
At this point I was starting to notice a bit of concern in the doctor’s demeanor. He scheduled me for a CT scan of the soft tissue in my neck, a full blood work analysis, and a follow-up for diagnosis with an ear nose and throat specialist.
The CT scan was rather uneventful, consisting of laying on a platform that moves you into a whirling ring that reminds me of something from an old Star Trek rerun. They inject you with a dye that highlights the lymph nodes, which gives you a strange, warm sensation throughout your whole body. During certain parts of the test, you’re required to hold your breath. I assume this is in order to limit any movement that may blur the scanned image. In a matter of a few minutes, the test was over, and I was free to go.
A few days later, on a Saturday morning, I went in for the requested blood work. They took a few vials of blood, and I was in and out in less than 10 minutes. Afterwards, I went about my normal Saturday morning routine.
Around noon, my wife, granddaughter, and I were sitting down to have lunch, when the phone rang. The fellow on the other end introduced himself as the blood specialist, and went on to explain that he had found some troubling indications in the lab analysis of my blood. He continued with “We’ve arranged to have you admitted to the hospital. They will be expecting you in the next hour, and you’ll be there for a couple days – maybe more.” I tried to get more details from the doctor, but he wasn’t budging, so off to the hospital we went.
After getting settled into the room, the doctor arrived, and went on to explain that my white blood cell count was over 30,000. Not knowing what that meant, I was taken aback to find out that the normal range is between 4500 and 11,000. It appeared that I was either going through some sort of “event”, or that I had a serious problem within my blood system. Whatever the case may be, the plan was to take samples to the lab in regular intervals, and monitor the changes, if any.
Late in the afternoon, a new doctor stopped in, and introduced himself as my oncologyst. Again, not knowing what that was, I soon learned that he was a cancer specialist. He went on to explain that it appeared that I may have something called CLL – Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia. He tried to ease my apprehension by sharing that if I had to have Cancer, this was the type to have, since more than 75 % of cases were very treatable. The next stage of diagnosis involved some chest x-rays, and additional CT scans of the whole torso.
As you can see, this was all alot to take in given the absence of heath issues throughout my life. Please join me again when I complete the second installment of this two-part story.
Thanks for visiting, and be sure to share this with someone who may benefit from it.