On December 10th, I went for my regulation 2 year eye check-up. All was going swimmingly, until the optician took some pictures of my eye. Red spots. Clots to be exact. “I think you may have diabetes” she seriously informed me and gave me a couple of referrals for an Ophthalmologist and my GP.
The next day, off I went to the Ophthalmologist. More rigorous tests. Yup, looks like diabetes. Get to your GP asap. So on December 16th I went to see my super GP – Dr Tim. By now I was pretty anxious and just totally unloaded on him. “Had you had any symptoms of feeling unwell?” he asked “You’ve lost an awful lot of weight since I last saw you”. I gave it some thought. Sure, I hadn’t been feeling great. I had been very stressed during my Mum’s death here in Australia earlier in the year and the subsequent aftermath. I was anxious, depressed and rather moody. I had lost a lot of weight but thought that was a mix of stress and a more rigorous diet and fitness regime. He told me to go and get a blood test, but it certainly looked like our old friend diabetes.
The following day I gave the blood samples and waited anxiously for Friday and the results.
8am, December 18th. Dr Tim calls me at home. The tests had come back. “I need you to come to the surgery asap” he told me. It was the first day of school holidays and the boys and I had plans. Luckily my wife had not yet left work for the day. She rapidly arranged some child care and we flew off to see the Doctor.
We sat in Dr Tim’s rooms and we had a good news/bad news moment. “Your white blood cell count is through the roof…you’ll need to go to hospital asap”. “The tests indicate that you have leukaemia”. World caves in. But, he positively tells me “Its the best type you can get”. Ooh well that’s at least something – A good cancer apparently. Who knew.
Off to the Royal Prince Alfred we went and into the health care system. I spent the next three days either strapped to an amazing machine that filtered my blood of the white blood cells, being off my head while they did a bone biopsy of my hip or having constant blood letting. The rest of the time I watched the cricket on the crappy TV above my bed. Oh and my spleen, which I’d never given any thought to and normally hides like a small plum under my left rib-cage was going into hyper-drive. It was now the size of a grapefruit. That lump I’d felt on my stomach and which I thought could of been the beginnings of a six-pack was actually fit to burst.
Eventually, they confirmed that I had Chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML) and it is the best one you can get. Who knew. If I’d contracted this disease 10 years ago, there was a very good chance it would turn into the acute, nasty version and I could hope to live for another 2-5 years but thanks to the wonders of genetics they had developed a drug, well 3 actually, which while it could not cure the disease, it could keep it in check and allow me to lead a normal and healthy life. There are caveats to that: sometimes it doesn’t work and occasionally there are a few nasty side affects but my options are few and I’ve now joined the chronically ill pill-popping generation.
I’m home now and looking forward to Christmas and trying to come to terms with the events of the last few days. There will be lots of lessons to learn from this but my gift to all Men reading this and the lesson I have learnt is that if something doesn’t feel right or you are slightly worried about your health go and see your GP. That’s what they are there for. I’ve had plenty of time to ponder over the last few days and all the signals were there, but I took the usual bloke attitude that if I just left/ignored it then it would just go away. Plus, I was really happy with my new slim-line figure. It turns out, you can’t ignore it. I will now be going to the hospital on a regular basis for the rest of my life and my GP will soon be sick of the sight of me. But that’s OK, I have two boys who are my world and an amazing wife I want to grow old and happy with. If that means a bit of prodding and poking by amazing medical people now and again then I’ll do it. I’m not quite ready to die yet. Merry ‘bloody’ Christmas.