Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Five years...the first of several posts on the topic

I'm sitting at my desk right now.  It's a sunny October day in southern California and the sun in streaming in.  The desk is a pipe of papers.  The scene is very much like it was five years ago.

Five years ago, essentially to the day, my primary care physician called me to tell me that he observed high protein in my blood.  I had no idea what it meant.  I'd been on a moderately high protein diet for some time, was that what he meant?  No, he said.

I'd been on Lipitor for some time for genetically high cholesterol.  I don't like needles (irony alert) so I'd avoided the required blood test for about a year.  Lipitor is hard on the liver and to make sure everything is still working, they want blood every 90 days.  I'd avoided it as long as I could, when my primary care doctor told me I had to man up and get the blood drawn or he wouldn't renew the prescription.

I went in, they did bloodwork.

Two days later he called me back to give more blood, only saying he wanted to run one test over.

Two days later he called me back to tell me about this protein.

He said it was unlikely, but it could be one of two things.  One is called MGUS.  And he said it was VERY unlikely but that it could also possibly be something called Myeloma.

I said "anything that ends in Oma is bad."

He chuckled.  He said "it's a malignancy of the blood, but not like Leukemia or anything like that."   To rule that out and just confirm that this was nothing (or MGUS at worst) he wanted me to see a Hematologist.  I made an appointment.

I was still blissfully unaware.

That night I called my longtime best friend Dr. BM, who was considerably more concerned.  He said people die from Myeloma.  That didn't sound very good at all.  But I wasn't worried.

Silly me.

More to come.

But...five years later, here I am.  In complete remission (we think...that stupid marker in my blood has me nervous even though there is other data that says I shouldn't be).  Surviving.  I've been through a lot.  The treatment has derailed my career, if only (hopefully) temporarily.  It's left me tired, poked, prodded, and more familiar with the inside of a MRI machine.  It's gotten me up close and personal with those needles I didn't care for -- and still don't.  I've learned what I can from it.  I'm still here.  But all in all, this has really, really sucked.

I guess we call that perspective qualified optimism.  It's the best I can muster.  My frame of mind relative to pre-diagnosis is hard to put a brave face on.  My frame of mind relative to diagnosis and prognosis, I assure you, will be more positive.

Interesting reflections.  And more to come.