Walking Through Cancer?/Part 2

                                        The  L–O–N–G  Diagnostic Phase

I’m glad that my personal physician is sharp and attentive. I only see her once a year because I never get sick. But when she saw my complete blood count (CBC)  in August, she called in the calvary. She got me in to see a hematologist as soon as possible, and from early September, Dr. Julia became my doctor. She drew about ten vials of blood and sent me home for a month.

Then I came back and she ordered a bone marrow aspiration and biopsy. That procedure was an easy one, thanks, probably, to hordes of screaming meemies who, on previous occasions, had to be held down while the doctor excavated their hip for bone marrow. After years of that, the doctors at Providence Hospital decided to be more humane and offer sedation. Boy, was I born in the right century! I didn’t feel a thing. Out like a light and home in a few hours.

This bone marrow biopsy eliminated blood cancer, although it didn’t say what I did have. Yay. I was home free!

Dr. Julia, based on that bone marrow report, diagnosed me with L-HES, a rare blood disorder that occurs in about .03 percent of the population. I will write this once so I don’t have to write it again: lymphocytic-hypereosinophilic syndrome. So few people have gotten it that very little is known about it. And my chances of getting it? So, yes, she was skeptical. But it’s not a benign condition. It is treated with steroids, and if that doesn’t kill all the eosinophils in my blood, they will eventually invade my organs and kill me from that. So I sat around stewing with that diagnosis, eventually telling concerned family and friends Dr. Julia’s diagnosis.

Not so fast, sister! Dr. Julia is thorough and relentless. She wasn’t satisfied, so she ordered a PET scan. That was another easy procedure. I swear, the people at Providence Hospital really know how to coddle their patients. They gave me two (2) Ambien to take for the hour while I was waiting for the scan—so I would sleep while the radioactive agent was circulating in my system.

The exasperated radiologist said she couldn’t even pronounce what she was looking for. And then she caught me using my cell phone and reprimanded me,

“Don’t use your brains, Marilea. That’s what the Ambien was for. Just go to sleep!”

After an hour, I sleepwalked into the machine and kept sleeping through the procedure. Then Gene drove me home. But the results were troublesome. Dr. Julia found some “hot spots” (activity that often means cancer) in my groin and said I should have a lymph node biopsy, looking for what might be causing them.

And so, I graduated to expensive procedure #3. I am grateful for many things in my life, but excellent health insurance—which I earned from my years as a teacher—approved and paid for them all. A welcome silver lining in this cloud hanging over me.

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