My wife had her first visit at the Cancer Centre yesterday.
Now isn’t that a scary way of starting a conversation? The visit really wasn’t so scary.
Let me start at the beginning. Four months ago Chris decided that the tiredness she felt after a day’s work had to be due to something more than being somewhat overweight and out of shape. She saw our family doctor and was sent for blood tests. When he saw the results of those tests, the high white cell count caused him to immediately suspect that she had CLL – Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia.
At first, the mention of leukemia sent us into a panic. Then I googled CLL and found that the word chronic means that people don’t die from it. That brought a little relief, but there was still a lot of uncertainty as to what it means, and will mean, for Chris.
A suspicion of CLL is not a diagnosis. Not too long ago the only way of obtaining a definite diagnosis was to take a bone marrow sample, not an enjoyable experience. New technology allows doctors to examine the external shape of white blood cells to determine if they are normal or if they show the malformation that is characteristic of CLL. Chris had that test and it was positive.
She has had x-rays and a CT scan that show no internal organs are affected. She has had periodic blood tests and visits with a hematologist at Royal University Hospital. He told her that the later tests show very little change from her first test, meaning that the CLL is progressing very slowly.
Now the hematologist at RUH has passed Chris’s file on to a hematologist at the Cancer Centre for ongoing monitoring. The road from here looks like this: they will do periodic blood tests to monitor her condition. The next test will be in three months and if it shows very little change the tests will be spaced out further. In time, if the CLL causes further complications, chemotherapy will be necessary. But this won’t be anything like the chemo that she had thirty years ago after she had cancer. It will probably only involve taking pills, and will have very few side effects.
CLL is not curable, but it is treatable in its more advanced stages. And the treatment is generally quite effective.
For the present, Chris is learning to live with CLL, pacing herself and accomplishing more than if she were to get frustrated and try to do more at one time than her body could cope with. God has been good to us in times past, making a way for us in all the troubles we have faced, and we trust He will continue to do so,