Monday, May 16, 2011

Leukemia the Beast!

Morning came much too early and I feel feverish. I slide the comb through my falling out hair and the toothbrush across my teeth. I stumble down the hall, find my father and get into his new fancy SUV and head to my poor broken down Toyota. I called Triple A on the way and then Mobil station, hoping that my friend still owns it. As luck would have it, he did so I at least knew where to have the car taken. Of course Triple  A tried to jump the car and it started right up. Don’t you just love it! The sucker wouldn't even turn over last night and one little jump and it is running normally. My guess is that it is the alternator.

 I drive the stupid car to the gas station and my Dad follows me. They said that it should be ready by four. My Dad plans to take me to Palm Springs for my blood draw and doctor’s appointment until he realizes that we also have to stop and pick up KK at the hotel. He is just getting over surgery himself and isn’t feeling all that well, so he relents and allows me to drive my mother’s “fancy” car. Now I would have preferred to drive HIS car, but the pressure would have been way too much; and besides, it would have had to be a life or death situation for that to happen! Funny how at 52 years old I am still nervous to borrow and drive my father’s cars, even though a have a near perfect driving record.

I head to Palm Springs and make it just in time. Now I have been coming to this facility for the past seven years; ever since I had surgery, removing ovarian tumors. They were borderline tumors, meaning that they weren’t yet cancer, but they weren’t normal either. I saw Dr. Mark Genesen every three months for years and now see Dr. Han every six months to make sure they (the tumors, not my ovaries) haven’t returned.  He is the doctor that diagnosed my leukemia. It is very familiar place to me and never created any anxiety whatsoever once my tumors were removed. I never even imagined that I would one day be visiting the other side of the hall; the side where the “other” cancer patients would disappear behind the door in the corner; for chemotherapy. The words: “Desert Hospital Comprehensive Cancer Center” now held a new meaning. I was lucky enough to need the medical staff on both sides of the hallway; Lucky me!

I check in at the reception desk and the gal says, “Dr. Han doesn’t have you on the schedule.”  I reply, “I know, today I get to see Dr. Camacho, I have leukemia now.” She was as floored as I was when I heard the diagnosis.  They call me right in and draw my blood. I return to the waiting room happy to see a new and different puzzle on the table. All doctors’ offices should have a puzzle or two lurking in the waiting room to distract the patients from their long waits. It is always good to distract a cancer patient whenever possible. If you are lucky enough to find a puzzle in your waiting room, just be sure to use hand sanitizer before and after touching the pieces. This is to protect others and ourselves.

When I was finally called back to see the doctor, they weighed and measured me, checked my blood pressure; it was low, and my temperature; it was slightly elevated and sent me into the exam room to wait some more. Dr. Camacho quickly came in and had a puzzled look on his face. He said, “So, are you still taking 140 mg of Sprycel per day?” I said, “No, I have been taking 70 mg for two weeks.” He questioned me again and said, “Really, 70 mg?” I said, “Yes, really; why?” He said, “Well, your white cells are down to 1,500.”

Now, if you remember, I was concerned about 140 mg being too high a dose for me; seems as though 70 mg might be too much, too. He was absolutely shocked and told me to take one tablet every other day and he would consult with my other doctor at City of Hope. He also said that if my temperature rose to 101 degrees that they would throw my butt back into the hospital and test every bodily fluid that I had. It seems that my red count and platelets were down, too. No wonder that I have felt like total crap for the past three days. I wondered if it was because I had over done it, or if it was simply my body adjusting to the medication and the leukemia.

I head over to the hotel to pick up my cousin. She isn’t quite ready so I make a few phone calls and check on my car. It is the alternator and they should still have it done by four. KK and I head up to my folks for lunch, a visit and another nap. This is getting old! My Dad takes me down to get my car and leaves me there. I get a call from the doctor’s office and after consulting with my current doctor, they have decided that my low white count warrants four shots of Neupogen; an injection to help increase the production of white blood cells. It seems as though it must be given in a series, so I now must stay in the desert at least one more night. Oh, this is becoming a very bad pattern!


  1. No point in beating around the bush with the receptionist about having leukemia now! Amazing how YOU KNEW your own body to KNOW 140 mg. was too much, and you were only taking 70 "while you waited for the 100 mg. dose to arrive"... I wish Dr's listened to the patient, and realize that - no - we ARE NOT Dr's, but we know our own bodies better than ANYONE or any test... Love to you Michele, always, Julia

  2. I know! It is difficult because they are the "experts", but it is also difficult because sometimes they treat everyone the same despite the fact that we are all different!
    Love to you, too,


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