When your Doctor finds something you weren’t looking for

Me and a subset of my support network (Kevin center, Becky right), having coffee at Sheri’s Java Shack last Friday after my most-recent blood test. Turned out we had reason to smile. Good thing, that!

A few weeks ago I embarked on a new journey, departing from my long-time quest to climb faster by figuring out what has been causing my breathing issues, to dealing with an anomaly in a blood test… a very-high platelet count. Out of maybe 40 different tests run on me, 37 came out beautifully, indications of someone in very good health. 2 or 3 did not, which, I’ll admit, put me into a restless state of mind. The first re-check came back worse, quickly adding a new Doctor to my portfolio, a Hematologist/Oncologist. The fear and trepidation of each incoming blood test, prior to my visit with the Hematologist, was stunning. For the first time I can remember, I felt like I had something I couldn’t fight using my wits, intelligence or strength. A really scary feeling!

New test results continued to arrive on my phone even later that same day, as if someone was deliberately trying to torture me. It made for a very rough weekend. In fact, my phone let me know of a new test result just as my daughter and I were getting ready to ride away from the shop that Friday night. I didn’t check the results until later, but as we started the ride home, we came across a down-on-his-luck guy pushing a shopping cart with his belongings, asking if we knew where a soup kitchen was. We said no (which was truthful) and moved on. 10 seconds later I turned around and headed back to him, checking on my phone to see if I could find one. Nothing open that late. I had $14 in my wallet; I took out $10 and gave it to him. I don’t know why. I just knew it was something I should do. It didn’t make me feel better, but one of my core values seemed to have become more important. All those little situations you don’t give much thought to, where what you do might make the world just a little tiny bit better, or a little tiny bit worse. Always try to choose the better.

The results of that evening’s incoming test were worse than those previous. There was this feeling, a totally irrational feeling, that the “worse” numbers on the retest might be an indication of something bad happening really fast. That feeling had no basis outside of an amateur looking at numbers without having any real context to understand them. But I resolved to handle things better, and besides, I was now on a medication (Hydroxyurea) that has a history of working very well dealing with my specific issue (too many platelets). Give it a chance. And yes, pray.

Some of the fear subsided as I began my meds, and even more so as I continued to ride well, improve even, completing the 100 mile Sequoia Century with my son in fine form. By the time two weeks had passed, I felt OK with things, I was ready for that next test. So I went in Friday morning, knowing I’d be getting those pesky emails later in the day, emails with test results that had the potential to wreck my weekend. I went with Becky and Kevin (seen in the photo) and had a truly good feeling about things, about not just the tests themselves but the future in general.

And at 2:48pm the results came in. Platelets decreased from 3x normal to just 2, with the Doctor hopeful that further improvement will be seen at the current relatively-low dose of Hydroxyurea. Thoughts of things going seriously wrong completely dispelled. Many thanks to my family (kids Becky & Kevin, wife Karen, dog Jack, cats Zack & Zoey), extended family, Chain Reaction employees and customers who have helped keep my spirits up. It’s time to settle in for what’s likely to be a very long journey (in general, scary as “bone marrow” issues are, a diagnosis of essential thrombocythemia does not typically affect lifespan but becomes a long-term managed condition).

10 thoughts on “When your Doctor finds something you weren’t looking for

  1. Mike,
    I truly and sincerely hope your blood tests show an ongoing reduction in platelets and a return to perfect health.

    1. Berry: Thanks! “Perfect” health isn’t an option; this will be a managed chronic condition. But if I’m able to keep riding, if I can keep working, if I can enjoy the company of friends & family (and of course if I can keep on writing!), that’s all got to be part of a perfect life, right? Part of the process of getting through this is writing about it. I can choose to change my focus and attitude, which I sometimes need to do because there are some really scary aspects to this, potential events & turns that don’t go so well. It’s likely this is how things began for my father many years ago, although he wasn’t diagnosed with anything until already very ill.

      I suppose I could look at being forced to deal with, and possibly get over, my extreme fear of needles and especially of having blood drawn as a silver lining? If there’s one thing I’m consciously thankful for at times, it’s the skill of the people at Kaiser in the vampire division. They are very, very good. Still think I would have had issues as a professional cyclist though!

  2. Whew, I was getting more and more anxious as I was reading this (me and my cancer research background) so I was thrilled to read that the platelets decreased. And that was such a nice thing you did to give that guy money for dinner (maybe that helped, too, who knows?)!

    1. Trust me, I’ve had enough anxiousness to go around for both of us! I’ve got two more genetic tests coming back (MPN and CRLS I think?), negative on JAK2 (which surprised me) and Philadelphia. And obviously there’s a bone marrow biopsy in my future. It’s a bit strange looking at the scale in a really different way too… I confirmed with (at this point it becomes “one of”) my doctor that I should be maintaining weight, not trying to get down to “summer” weight. I was 3/4 of the way into losing the 8 pounds of “Winter” weight that needed to come off, and all of a sudden what had been the direction I wanted to see the scale move, has become something to be concerned about. It’s not fair!!!

      My pulmonologist is back from vacation on the 16th and will probably be surprised that I still want to figure out the breathing issue. I do have to credit him with ordering the tests that found the platelet issue though. So I’ve gone from seeing a doctor every 20 years or so (literally, not joking here) to having a GP, Hematologist/Oncologist and Pulmonologist on call. And in a 6 week period I have more than doubled the sum total of blood tests I’ve had during my prior 50 years. That would be 5 recent visits to the vampire vs 2 during the past 50 (once when required to get married, the second in 2012 for the 20 year check-up). Yes, I actually avoided a blood test when I broke my wrist and had it operated on! They forgot to take it and I didn’t remind them.

  3. Reading your biking stories (and non-biking ones, especially the personal posts about your son and his health) has been an inspiration to me for many years. I’m glad the medication is starting to work and that most likely this will be manageable for you! My thoughts are with you and your family. Take care and know that dozens (hundreds? thousands?) of your readers and Chain Reaction customers are out here rooting for you.

    1. Exactly right. Hang in there Mike, and thanks for all you do.

      —Another one of your thousands of readers and admirers.

  4. We’ll keep our fingers, toes and eyes crossed that the long-term management of the condition is as smooth and unobtrusive as possible.

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