“Reality can be beaten with enough imagination.” Mark Twain

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

My Cancer Story: The Big Infection and What It Told Me

In honor of September being Blood Cancer Awareness Month, I'm sharing my story of living with leukemia. The WHOLE story.

Part 2

So, where was I? Oh yes, in pre-op, all prepped, hearing my WBC was 28,000 and praying they wouldn't cancel surgery to give my lap-band to help me lose weight.

Dr. Blackstone
They didn't. Surgery went as scheduled and it was great. BTW, my surgeon was Dr. Robin Blackstone of Scottsdale Bariatric. She's one of the foremost in her field with a comprehensive program of education and support.

In a few months, I lost 77 pounds, and felt great. Things were going fine. Just fine. I was on my way.

To another infection. In February, over the course of a week or two, a burning feeling developed in my lower left leg along a vein. It was like a burning robe there. When I finally went to get it checked out by my PCP, she had me see the venus ultrasound dept. first. The tech did her thing and gave me the report, folded and stapled to take right to my doctor. Not good. I snuck a look at what I could on the elevator between floors and discovered I was headed for the hospital.

It turned out I had a dandy case of cellulitis, which is a skin infection under the skin. A few little germies sneak in through a minute loss of integrity in your hull, so to speak. Then they set up a happy little colony where the sun don't shine and proceed to be fruitful and multiply, in my case along a vein where the circulation stank to begin with.

I was admitted to the local hospital. Remind me to post the hilarious diatribe I wrote about that stay sometime. IV's of intense antibiotics were my fate. Despite the 4 days of heavy IV antibiotics, they weren't totally pleased with my progress so I ended up with a PICC--a surgically placed venous catheter that allowed me to go home and adminster my own antib's and go about my life. It happened over the long February weekend so I only missed like a day of work. I'd missed about a week in December for the bariatric surgery and I didn't want to miss much more.

But even after the hospital and their toxic waste medication, my white count only went down by 3000 to 25000. Distressingly curious, especially since I was treated at home for three weeks. When the count didn't drop after that, well...

The next step was to the hemotologist. I had forgotten hemotologists are also oncologists so I ended up on the floor when I called the hemotologist and they answered the phone with, "Oncology," said in a chipper voice. I booked an appointment. And there were tests.

In the meantime, as the curious and smart are prone to do, I researched my symptoms. I googled "causes of high white blood count." I ended up here. I clicked through most of the links and decided Chronic Mylogenous Leukemia (CML) was the best fit. Click here for the list of symptoms.

Everything fit pretty good. Well, fatique, I was born tired but was feeling pretty good since I had just lost weight. Night sweats. Sure, but I was menopausal. But the infections. I had rarely been sick and it had been years since I been on anitbiotics for anything. Then, like five in less than a year? Fishy. And losing weight before surgery. My PCP had prescribed an appetite supressor to help with that but would only let me stay on for so long because it's addictive. Even after I stopped, I continued to lose weight without trying too hard. And I have to WORK to lose weight. That was fishy, too. And my skin was pale, almost see-through.

So, when my oncologist (or onc for lazy typists) told me she was pretty sure I had Philadelpia + CML, I wasn't shocked. I was scared and angry. But not shocked.

Tomorrow: How bad and what to do?

No comments:

Post a Comment

Leave a comment! It'll make my day. Unless you're rude. That will ruin your day.