So, newsflash, waiting in the doc’s office to find out you probably have one of ten different kinds of cancer is not a fun activity. The ghost of Lorenz was present, space-time stretches and distorts, minutes drag by; it’s an ordeal. Every time a door opens into the waiting room, you wonder if now’s the time, the beginning of the end, where you will be beckoned back into the bowels of medical wonderland for a grim pep talk on the kick-ass advances in chemo-therapy or bone-marrow replacement waiting for you. An adventure of sorts, into the irreducibly broken side of human physiology, where someone will play the anatomical model with a hidden pathological condition. Today, I landed that starring role, the door finally opened, my name was called.
Short answer, odds are good, almost a lock, that I don’t have leukemia or lymphoma. My liver, pancreas, lungs with a small exception, and even bowels are free of any obvious masses. That’s the good news. The bad news is I probably have a rare blood disorder, but I’ll be damned if I can remember the name of it. I like to think of myself as a reasonably brave person, but maybe less so as the clock ticks toward old age, because the room almost started spinning in delightful relief after she told me about the negative cancer tests. My battered brain basically stopped recording at that point, pondering instead how much damage I could inflict on my now officially sanctioned-as-healthy-liver this weekend, while on a starvation budget, in celebration of life enriching ethanol.
If I recall it’s something about an autoimmune reaction and having too much iron and oxygen, it can get toxic, it has to be monitored. It can kill a person if it gets out of control, in a bunch of ways, because every organ and structure that draws blood is affected. It can also work hand-in-hand with other issues, injury or autoimmune stuff, anything that aggravates the immuno-response network. That stuff can run away with itself, cause leukocytes to spike, and now you have a bunch of white-cell gangs running through fragile tissues like miniature, armed wolfpacks on a million search and destroy missions.
On the white counts and other signs, the blood tests that kicked this round of panic off, and were even subsequently confirmed as worse a few weeks later, read like a lead-pipe cinch for a case of raging leukemia or lymphoma. My doc was sure, dead certain, right up until these more comprehensive results came back two days ago, that that’s exactly what I had. She was all set to refer me immediately to an oncologist and trying to figure out the best way to break the news, when she got the newer data.
On the employment side of things, this is exactly the kind of diagnosis I feared. Bad enough to make me feel miserable, wiped out, tired as hell sometimes, scary looking enough for docs to tell me to drop everything and not move until it’s dialed in, but I don’t know if it will be bad enough to generate a short-term disability claim and keep me from getting fired. If that happens I lose my health insurance, next week, I’ll have to pick up COBRA premiums at almost a grand a month. Starting next year I might be able to get a decent gold or platinum level policy on the Obamacare exchange for considerably less.
To put a real fine point on it, without the ACA and the requirement to cover preexisting conditions, I would be absolutely fucked once COBRA ran out or if I couldn’t swing that fat premium for a single month. No insurance company would ever touch a guy who had a heart attack and this kind of deal on top of it in the space of a few months. Even if you look this healthy at age 51, which brings up another issue that was found.
I may have broken a rib, somehow, some weeks ago apparently. Probably from the insane ab workouts, not to mention being older and more brittle. I got vain and kind of carried away when I saw the six-pack starting to peek out after being overweight for a number of years. Whatever happened to that bottom right rib, it’s healing or trying to, but probably because I didn’t know I had done that, and didn’t baby it, some inflammation developed and a few hundred CC’s of fluid or blood leaked into my right lung along the way. Learning crazy wake-board tricks at my age is …well, maybe a factor too. And the girl I like who is a third-degree black-belt and can probably crack walnuts with her abs spurred me on … Anyway, that’s what caused the weird pain in my side, some alarming shortness of breath and minor dizziness, and may have contributed to high white counts and sed rates.
So bottom line, there are issues I have to navigate, both medical and financial. This blood deal has to be investigated further. But I’m not as worried and I’m not quite as desperate for every penny like I was a few days ago. Over a dozen kind people who frequent this site, people I have never met and would not recognize if I saw them, have already made sure I’m not dead broke after all these copays and missed work.
So yeah, as far as life, signs are I’ll probably be around for years to come, pointing out political malfeasance and annoying the faithful to the best of my ability.
Thank you, and thank all of those who emailed or left well wishes in comments, many of whom are themselves struggling, none of whom enjoy the luxury of a megaphone like mine to bleg for donations when things get tough. It shouldn’t be that way in a nation as prosperous as the United States.
But I’m lucky as hell. I still have the precious commodity of time, and I get to continue working to change some things on behalf of people who are running out of time.