You might think I’m talking about my favourite public radio station, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. I don’t like all the summer repeats any more than you do but relentless cutbacks will do that. That’s not today’s topic, however.
Rather, I’m referring to the Complete Blood Count, the window to my disordered bone marrow. A harmless CBC completed with my annual physical 15 years ago first revealed a problem, and, ultimately, my diagnosis with polycythemia. Polycythemia is, by definition, an excess of red blood cells, although for some special people their white blood cells and platelets go along for the ride. Hoarder that I am, I developed an excess of all three.
And so, about 10 years ago, my white blood count started rising, and rising, and rising. The normal range is between 4-11 and I tipped the scale at 100 or so at my highest. As it rose, doctors unfamiliar with my history began questioning leukemia, but that diagnosis did not come until 8 years later, when a very astute hematologist noticed that the medication intended to suppress that white blood count wasn’t working very well and pursued other explanations.
When I started on chemotherapy for CML, miracle of miracles, my white blood count gradually returned to the normal range. For a while. And then it started creeping back up. 12…15…17. Which made me a little anxious. Because a lot of things do. Which led to my recent repeat CBC, two weeks after my last. And the 23. And utter panic. Okay, let’s be honest, a teeny meltdown in my car after I found out, within view of a kind young father and his son. How embarrassing. Unstable psychologist rears her ugly head.
So what did I do? I texted J. first, of course. And then I went to work. Bad, bad Annie, scheduling a client after a doctor’s appointment. I know from experience that this is not a good idea. I never know what I’ll find out at the doctor, or how I’ll feel after the appointment, and I’ve had many years to learn not to schedule clients after I go to the doctor. Dumb, dumb, dumb me. So I pulled it together and saw my client. Because I had to.
And then I contacted my second voice of reason, my lovely nurse practitioner at the Cancer Centre. She called me back right away, since I don’t often belabour her with my anxiety, and within moments reassured me that it’s not my cancer. That’s when I learned that the kind of white blood cells that would suggest a cancer-related problem are fine; it’s the ones related to possible infection that aren’t. You’d think a blood disorders aficionado like me might know that by now. Oh well, live and learn, lowly layperson.
So I stopped crying. Okay, maybe not immediately. Actually not until J., sensing my distress in my text–amazing how she can do that–arrived home early from work and gave me a hug. She always knows just what to do.
You too are welcome to hug me when you see me. But if you could be gentle, since my platelets are pretty low right now, so even a gentle nudge can leave a bruise. But I’m not worried about that.