Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Health Update #43

(I don't know if this is really the 43rd update - I just like the number)

Four months ago I had some blood work that showed an elevated count of eosinophyls. Eosinophyls are a subset of white blood cells. An elevated rate can be a sign of:
1. Inflammation - which would make sense because of my rheumatoid arthritis
2. Infection - which might explain my seemingly constant sinus infection
3. Allergy - which I've always had, although historically, my allergies have always/only been in the spring
4. Blood Cancer, including leukemia

 Two months ago, the blood work showed the count had gone down. I met Dr. Zuckerman at Mountain States Tumor Institute (MSTI, pronounced misty for those who aren't familiar). He wasn't overly concerned at the time, since the eosinophyl rate had gone down and said we'd meet again to see if the rate went down even further.

 This morning I had the follow-up blood work. The count had gone back up from 17% to 32%. Incidentally, I don't know what the normal range is; I think both of those counts are elevated.

Because the count is so high, Dr. Z suggested we do a bone marrow biopsy, which we did this morning. I've been through some painful things in my life.
1. I live with RA
2. I've had 3 kidney stones
3. 2 shoulder surgeries
4. Surgery on my hand

 A bone marrow biopsy is painful. First, they numbed the skin, just a small poke with a needle, a short-lived burning sensation. Then, with another needle, they numbed under the skin and the bone. That burned a little too. Once everything was numb, Dr. Z started trying to push a needle through the bone, to get to the bone marrow. It wasn't painful, but I could feel the pressure and it felt like he was putting all his weight on it. He was really digging hard.

 Three years ago my rheumatologist in Twin Falls gave me a bone density test, which showed some bone loss. I've been on calcium since then. Apparently the calcium has worked. Dr. Z said, "You have the strongest bones of anyone I've ever done this procedure on." That's good as far as the bone loss, but when the doctor is trying to push a needle through the bone - not so much.

 Twice, once he was through the bone (I think), he did something that caused shooting pain. I'm not sure I've even felt anything like that. Luckily it only lasted a few seconds. I knew I was going to make it when Dr. Z said, "We're past the worst."

 Tomorrow morning I go in for some more tests. Fortunately all these tests will be non-invasive. I'll get CT scans of my chest, abdomen and pelvis, a pulmonary function test (to see how my lungs are working), and an echocardiogram to see how my heart is doing. There are some conditions, including some cancers, that can show up in my heart and lungs before I feel any symptoms. On a positive note, Dr. Z told me that people who have some of the blood cancers are usually more sick than I am. Overall, I'm a healthy person (of course that's relative).

 I'll get the results at the end of the month.
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