Category Archives: Personal stuff

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).

A really long day that needed a bit of humor

The photo above makes fun of Tom Doumolin, leader of the Giro d’Italia bike race in Italy, having to stop riding his bike during the middle of a stage and, er, make use of a field for a toilet. Riding to work this morning, Kevin spotted someone with a toilet in their front yard, terribly convenient (but not terribly private) for a cyclist in need!

This, as mentioned, was a very long day for me, starting late yesterday, when blood test results came back indicating that there were some anomalies that were entirely unrelated to my breathing issues but potentially serious. The sort of thing that, when the “New test results available” email comes from Kaiser, you open with some degree of fear & trepidation. Definitely had some trouble sleeping last night, going over in my mind all the worst possibilities, and those fears weren’t softened when the Hematology department said I needed to come in today. Ummm… ok?

Did I tell you some (most?) aspects of getting older suck? When the nurse first took my blood pressure, I did the usual spiking thing, kicking it up to 160/90. I explained that’s just what I do in a doctor’s office, so she gave me a chance to collect my wits (calm down a bit) and bingo, 135/83. For me, in a medical environment, that’s darned good. The problem is that I have this real fear of needles, and guess what I associate with needles?

After spending quite a bit of time with the Doctor it turns out what I’ve got isn’t really that big a deal (very high platelet count) and can be managed with a pretty benign medication. That’s the good side. The bad side is that I’ll be on an every-two-week blood test regimen for a while as they figure out the best dose for an appropriate response. Did I tell you I hate needles?

If I was younger, there wouldn’t be much reason to bother with bringing the platelet level down, but man, if you’re over 60, you might just as well forget about whatever warranty you thought your body had! Platelets are a good thing in normal numbers; they allow your blod to clot so cuts can heal. But in too-high numbers, platelets can essentially over-react and cause blood clots in aging bodies. Hate that.

I will say that I’m getting better at facing up to the mental challenges of having blood drawn. One of the funnier things the Doctor mentioned was that I must be new to Kaiser, since I had no real lab work on file prior to 2009. Yeah, well, I’ve been with Kaiser since, what, 1972 or something like that? Just stayed in “stealth” mode.

Stealth mode no more. It was a long and successful non-medicated ride for 55 years I think? But time to embrace better life through chemistry I guess. And less fear of blood test results. You just deal with it and keep on moving.

Message to mom- the doctor said there are no limitations whatsoever on what I can do. It’s possible the new meds could make me a bit fatigued at times, but she said no biggie, just rest up a bit. I asked her if there’s an issue if I just “push through it” and she gave me the strangest look, as in why would you do that?, but said no, you’re not going to hurt yourself doing so. Also, had the moles checked. All good. No need to call me. I’m fine. 🙂

Oh right, the ride report. Just myself and Kevin (kid) today, which was a bit odd. Sure, it was wet and cold up on Skyline, wet and cold enough that we skipped with West Old LaHonda section, thinking it would be really fogged in. And thinking in the back of our minds, what if it’s actually really beautiful on that side of the hill? We’ll never know.