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Signs and Symptoms of Leukemia
Our brains have a strange and very capable way of allowing us to cope with almost anything that is thrown at us. Looking back a couple of months before being diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia, I can now clearly see the symptoms that were right in front of me. In fact, my highly gifted brain was able to come up with a completely logical explanation for each of my symptoms.
Perhaps one of the first signs I noticed, and forgot, was my great destiny. I remember lying in bed one night reading; I said to Joe, “You know, things don’t seem to fit in here like they used to.” I just didn’t feel like I could be comfortable and that “things” were full on the left side of my stomach; up under my left rib cage. It felt tight to the touch, but it also felt thick, like muscle. It didn’t hurt and most of the time I didn’t even notice it was there.
Perhaps the second symptom I noticed was that I was just a little more tired than usual. That symptom was easily dismissed because Joe and I are always on the go. Our feet hit the floor running every morning and don’t stop until we go to bed. That being said I was going to be 52 soon, I was just tired of being tired, overdoing and “old”!
The third symptom was that I seemed to be a little short of breath when I was dancing. December was a very busy dance month for us as we prepared to dance at the UCWDC World Championships in Nashville Tennessee, the first week of January. That year was the first year I had ever competed in anything in my life. We competed in the Pro/Am division and I was the Am. Dancing was something I had wanted to do all my life and I had finally started learning to dance a few years earlier. Eós and I met when I took a class he was teaching at a dance convention and now we compete in the pro/am division.
So, back to my wind; we compete in eight dances and while practicing our routines, it’s normal to run through them one after the other for an hour straight. I started running out of gas during practice several months before the World’s. When I was competing, I was wondering what the ups and downs were in Nashville, because I was a little winded dancing there. I didn’t know if it was the elevation or my nerves, but I noticed that I was a little short of breath after every dance. After competing at World’s, we took a little break from working; when we started again, I told Joe that it was strange how quickly I got winded. I had to stop between practices to catch my breath. I chalked that up to being out of shape, and being a slacker for the past three weeks. In fact, now I know it was a symptom of my leukemia. I placed eighth in my division at World’s; but I know if I hadn’t had leukemia, I would have come in first!! And no, there were only eight people in my category, there were twenty four contestants.
My fourth symptom was the pressure. Now I have to preface this with the fact that I am very clumsy and am always pressed. I don’t remember where I got them; I just know they exist. Looking back though, this pressure was different. The bruise on my body, just before being diagnosed with CML was a bit strange. I seemed to have more of them and they seemed to last longer. They were also hard to the touch; as a lump under the skin. (This was due to the abundance of white blood cells.) They came up with a smaller bump or bang than they used to. I noticed them and scolded myself for starting to be more careful. The strange thing about this symptom is that I know it can be a sign of leukemia. When my daughter was only four years old, I took her to the doctor and he asked her to check her for leukemia because she was always covered in bruises. Yes, she was a tomboy and no, I did not hit her! It’s amazing to me that I never connected the brush with leukemia in myself.
Headache may be the fifth symptom. I had been getting a headache at the back of my head for a long time. I chalked that up to needing to update and change my eyeglass prescription. Headaches seemed to be more common at night, while watching TV or reading, or while working on the computer. In other words, as long as you concentrate. Yes, I know, taxing the brain! I made an appointment to see an optometrist on January 13, 2011. During my eye exam, while looking into my eyes with that very bright light, the doctor three questions for me. “Do you have high blood pressure?” I replied, “No, I have low blood pressure.” “Do you have diabetes?” I answered again, “No, I don’t know.” “Are you anemic?” Once again I replied, “No, that’s not what I know,” “Why?” “You scare me, should I be scared?” He replied, “Well, you have a lot of blood in your eyes.” Of course, I got a little worried and asked him what it could mean. He said he wasn’t sure, but assured me I wouldn’t go blind, but also said I should make an appointment to see a retina specialist within the next month or so.
Now you have to remember that I have been dealing with Cipro poisoning for the past nine months. My immediate thought was that this could also be related to Cipro. I went straight to the pharmacist and told her what the eye doc had said and asked her what she thought. She agreed that it could be very similar to Cipro in that Cipro not only affects your muscles, joints and tendons; it can also affect your emotional system. In combination with all the Ibuprofen I had been taking for the muscle pain, my vascular system could be compromised and my blood could be thin causing eye bleeding. I left disappointed and prayed that it would not be related to Cipro because if it was, there was nothing that could be done. Moral of the story, be careful what you wish for and be very specific when you send out prayers!
The sixth symptom was night sweats. I had been having night sweats for about six weeks and would wake up damp and cold. I always kicked the covers off and then pulled them back, all night. This was indeed linked to hormones. It was a no brainer and I would talk to my doctor about it at my next appointment.
Number seven was the bite-like rash I suddenly started getting on my torso. You know the first thing I did was wash my sheets and check the bed for bed bugs. I was sure we had to have them and that I was just sweeter than Joe, because he didn’t have any of the bites! You guessed it, no bed bugs. I hadn’t changed detergent and I hadn’t been camping. My skin is still very sensitive and I really want to run around naked all the time because clothes bother me. We hope the phase will pass!
The last and final symptom, and probably the one that would eventually send me to the doctor, was the extreme fullness I felt when I ate; and my funny blood. It was Super Bowl Sunday and I had a regular doctors appointment in two days. Joe and I were frantically trying to do our yard work before the Super Bowl started. I was mowing the front yard while he was mowing the back. I remember finishing one side and looking at the other side thinking, I can’t do it! I was pissed off and had to force myself to finish mowing the lawn. I kept thinking I was a baby since I’d been mowed on the front and back for ages and I wasn’t even tired. I convinced myself to finish mowing and while doing so I crushed my arm on a rose thorn. It started bleeding and I ignored it. Joe had finished the backyard and had come to see how I was doing. I was mowing and I was putting the mower into the garage. We both looked at my blood and thought it looked “strange.” We both said, “That doesn’t look right.” It was kind of orange in color, not really red. I still had no clue; my brain and common sense in total denial.
Joe started the BBQ and I made a salad and vegetables. We sat down to eat and within four bites I was stuffed. I thought it was strange because I usually eat a lot more, but I thought I still had my lunch with me. Since Joe works for Anheuser-Busch, of course we had beer on ice. I found it strange that it took me almost an hour to drink just one beer. The Super Bowl was over and I was still very full. I couldn’t even go to bed until midnight because I felt like a stuffed pig. I was so miserable. Do you think I would have known by now that something was terribly wrong? Looking back, I can hardly believe I didn’t.
So, in summary; my symptoms included fullness due to a swollen spleen, eye bleeds due to blocked and burst capillaries from too many white blood cells, shortness of breath, funny looking blood, fatigue, bruising, night sweats, skin rash and headache. I explained all of these easily and none of them interfered with my daily life. Duh!
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