It began with a small whimper
One morning while in my early fifties I had a simple flu and went to the local clinic for some medicine and comfort. By now I had mostly expunged my dreaded fear of doctors, and although still very trepidatious, I was able to overcome my resistance, and forge my way forward to seeing doctors.
It had been some years since my first encounter with doctors and physicals, and I now found my fears of sickness and doctors slowly dissipating. In fact, I was actually beginning to feel myself in good physical and mental health.
While at the local, clinic the doctor made a routine check of my blood to evaluate whether the illness was viral or bacterial, and to his surprise my white blood counts were very high.
He was quite sure there was something wrong with his machine (as he had had problems in the past) and asked me just to return in a few days to check my condition out further.
I’m not exactly sure of what happened next, but I do remember going to see an internist in Manhattan.
At this point in my life both in story and reality there was and is no going back. For years I have debated whether I should be telling you what I am about to unfold. For years I’ve kept this information mostly private except for friends, associates, neighbors, and a few others, so I’m not sure what purpose it serves to disclose it now, but then again I have tried to provide full disclosure. And with this promise as my guide, I am now proceeding to tell all.
When the internist evaluated my blood he became quite alarmed and nervous. For an hour he was trying to figure out what malady I might have that wasn’t that serious, all the time fearing that I was quite sick. Interestingly enough as I noticed he was getting more and more agitated and probably quite concerned I noticed I was becoming calmer. My blood pressure probably went from off the roof to normal. How could this be? All my life up to this point, I had imagined this moment and dreaded it. These fears had paralyzed me for a good part of my existence, and here it was happening right before me, and as the doctor was becoming more and more concerned I became calmer. How do I explain this?
I remember him commenting about how peculiar it was that I should be calm when most people would be so nervous. In conclusion he recommended that I have a biopsy of one of my lymph nodes to see what malignancy I had.
My wife (Leslie), and I left his office in a stupor. I was totally confused as I felt fine. Leslie’s father who was one of the wisest men I knew, strongly suggested I should not get a biopsy until I met with a hematologist.
At this point I began to change from continually fearing sickness to believing I now truly was, but instead of becoming immobile and paralyzed as I always had feared, somewhere I began to find strength.
We went to visit my college friend Michael, who I had rarely seen, because he was a doctor, and I was terrified of him. Luckily, he knew me well, and immediately saw us and helped us begin to figure out a strategy. I was also lucky that Michael is very smart and a very distinguished doctor so I was ready and able to take his advice. He told me quite bluntly, in agreement with Leslie’s father, that before doing anything, I should see a Hematologist who he recommended. And so began my relationship with Dr. Wolf.
On my first visit he did extensive blood work and a bone-marrow exam, and came back to us after examining my cells and told me I have chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL).
By being chronic rather than acute it can stand watching and doing nothing for some time. I am told my immune system is greatly compromised, and I must be very careful about getting sick as my system has a hard time curing itself, but otherwise there was nothing to be done at that time.
So this is the way it was for some years. My lymph glands were the size of oranges and I had some fatigue, but otherwise I was fine. I became a regular at Dr. Wolf seeing him every three months, until four years ago when things began to change.
Until next week.