I wish I could say I was referring to Love. Or laughter. Or even life. But ugh, I’m referring to Leukemia. My mom was just diagnosed yesterday with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia and as you can imagine, it sucks.
It all started a few weeks ago when she went in for a fairly routine appointment with her family practice doctor. They ran some run of the mill blood work and called her a few days later explaining that her white-blood cell count was incredibly high. Normal counts run from 4,000 – 10,000 and hers was at 35,000 which was worth bringing her back in for more blood work.
Of course, I immediately ran to google to see what a white count that high could indicate, and leukemia was one of the three options (the other 2 were whooping cough and severe stress to the body, like a traumatic injury) to which I immediately had a “holyfuckingshit” moment. However, I was quick to reel myself in and the more I read, the more I was relieved to learn that it’s manageable (more about that below) which allowed me to relax a smidge. Yes, still scary, but no need to lose my shit and fall apart.
They had her in the office the next day and referred her to a hematologist (blood doctor) where she had an appointment last Monday. They ran numerous tests on her, and with the labs the doctor was able to run in his office, he told her that he was fairly certain she had CLL. He had to send out the test for a 100% confirmation, but was careful to tell her that he was almost positive it was going to come back confirmed, and it did.
Yesterday, she had her follow-up which was when they were able to confirm the diagnosis. However, in light of it being Leukemia and being attached to that heinous word, cancer, overall, she got some pretty remarkable news in that she doesn’t currently need treatment. How freaking great is that?!
The interesting thing about this type of cancer (it’s cancer of the blood if you didn’t click on the link above to learn more about leukemia) is that it can take years, sometimes even decades to even become symptomatic! She got pretty lucky that it randomly showed up on a test and that they were able to diagnose it so early. She was diagnosed at “Grade Zero” which is the lowest level you can possibly be, so that’s great news as well.
So now, she has to be monitored by her doctor on a fairly regular basis (also known as “watchful waiting”). Since it’s all so new, she’ll start by going monthly to have her blood run where they’ll compare white blood counts and other stuff in the blood to make sure it’s not getting out of control or anything crazy.
Since everyone has a different experience with CLL, it’s impossible to predict what will happen. Most people are diagnosed in their 60’s/70’s, so she’s a little on the young side being in her early 50’s, but that doesn’t give us any indication as to what will happen in the future.
Her doctor said that they’ll just have to watch her and create a plan as things unfold. It could be decades before she needs any kind of targeted drug treatment or chemo, or it could be 6 months, 1 year, five years, 12 years. Cancer is a finicky little bitch who has a mind of its own, so there’s really no telling. Obviously we hope she continues to have no symptoms for as long as possible because duh, that would be the best outcome ever.
Yes, it’s scary. Yes, it’s cancer. But, of all the cancers in the world, this is the one to have. It’s manageable and something she can live with for years to come, so if there’s something positive to come from a cancer diagnosis, that’s it. :) If and when we get to the treatment phase, we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. Until then, positive thoughts that it just continues to chill and not go bananas.