The day of my diagnosis
Amy had gotten up and taken the girls to school. I woke up a bit later and just had started moving around. I wanted to do a bit of cleaning in the garage and move a little bit (foam roll, stretch, etc). I was listening to music when the phone rang. I recognized the number as a Roper number (the medical group that my doctor was affiliated with). I knew immediately upon hearing my doctor’s voice that it wasn’t good news. Your doctor never calls you with good news. She told me that I would need to be seen by another doctor and they were making the arrangements for that to happen. Still in a bit of distress, I asked when and where. She said that I needed to head over to the Roper Cancer Center as soon as possible. At first she kind of sugar coated it by just giving me the address but it sounded like she made herself come out and say cancer.
After I got off the phone with my doctor, I just kind of sat down and sighed. Cancer. Nobody wants to hear that word. Here I am, a 40 year old personal trainer, working 2 jobs while waiting for covid to reopen my gym. The absolute last thing on earth I was prepared to handle was the loss of my health. It took me a minute of sitting in my garage to gather my thoughts, and dry my tears. I’m not going to lie. Getting hit with a cancer diagnosis and my immediate thoughts went to the worst. I pulled myself together, realized that this is 2020 and cancer isn’t a death sentence that it once was. I get in my car and head over the Roper center.
I get to the desk to check in, they weren’t technically expecting me for a couple hours but the receptionist hurried things along and it almost seemed like there was a note next to my name that made this expediate my check-in. I fill out a ton of paperwork and pretty much after I hand it in, the nurse brings me back to get a bunch of blood drawn. From there vitals (blood pressure, oxygen, and temperature) and gets me into a room to see the doctor. I call Amy to have her on speak phone while all this is going on because I know I’m not going to be able to absorb and retain everything that’s going to be said. When the doctor walks in it’s pretty much straight to the point.
She asks me a few questions and tries to get a sense for how I’m doing, what I think is happening, and what might be wrong. I allude to the bump on my throat that was the catalyst for all this blood work and such. She shakes her head and says that it might just be a red herring. We don’t know what the bump is. I had initially thought that it might have been throat or thyroid cancer. She quickly dismisses those notions and says that I have leukemia. They don’t know yet what kind of leukemia I have. They need to run several tests and were in the process of doing that while we were talking.
They were initially worried that it was some form of acute leukemia and she said that they were trying to decide if I needed to be admitted immediately. The doctor was going to take a closer look at my blood samples, while I went to have a bone marrow biopsy. I’ve had biopsies of different skin samples over the years. My family and myself have had different types of malignant skin cancers over the years. I’ve had two basil cells removed. This biopsy was on a whole nother level though.
They take me into a different room and put me on a bed that’s older than I am (or at least it seemed that way). The nurse practitioner who is going to be doing the biopsy has done a ton of these. I’m not too worried about the whole process, just the bed I’m laying on. It takes what seems like an eternity for this bed to raise up to the level she needs it to be so that she doesn’t blow her back out doing this biopsy.
I’m just in jeans and such. They didn’t even get a chance to get me into a gown before doing this process. I pull my pants down just enough for them to get to my hip bone where they have to pull the sample from. They numb me up and start pushing these needles into my hip bone to actually pull samples of the marrow out of the bone to be able to test. I don’t really feel anything until she gets to the point where she aspirates the bone marrow. That’s when I feel this weird pulling/sucking sensation. It half hurts, half just feels weird. Once that part is over, they’re really done. That’s all there is to it. She did give me a momentary boost in the ole self confidence when she said that she’d never done a bone marrow biopsy into someone with as strong/dense bones. She said that she actually twisted the needle pushing it into my hip.
Once the bone marrow biopsy was over I needed to lie on my back for 45 minutes to an hour in order to keep pressure on the sight to insure that bleeding was kept to a minimum. At the time I knew nothing about hemoglobin, white blood cells, or platelets. I had no idea that having leukemia could have such a huge impact on my ability to create blood clots, my defense against disease, or just my overall healing ability.
By the time the bone marrow biopsy is done and I’m back in the doctor’s waiting room, they have the results of the blood smear. That at least is able to tell the doctor that I don’t have an acute version that would require immediate hospitalization. Now the waiting game starts as we have to wait for the results of the bone marrow biopsy to come back and tell us what type of chronic leukemia I have.
By the time the day is over, it’s been about 5 hours in the hospital. I had no idea and it still boggles my mind, that this is a regular occurrence. I have spent as much as 8 hours at the hospital during just a routine day. Having leukemia is a full time job.