We made the journey into Baltimore to speak with a new doctor yesterday, one who specializes in blood cancer. To recap, my white blood cell count has been low for about a year, something I wasn’t really aware of even though Hopkins makes the results of all of my bloodwork available to me through an online portal. In hindsight, it’s been a pretty obvious fact but I assumed I was doing OK because nobody mentioned it before last month.
When we started the process of treating my tumor one of the many forms they had me sign was my acknowledgement that the chemotherapy could trigger follow-on cancer of varying kinds. One of these is an aggressive form of blood cancer called Acute Myeloid Leukemia. My oncologist hasn’t been too concerned with this up until the last checkup, probably because he was waiting for my levels to come back up, which they haven’t.
The new doctor asked me a bunch of questions and then turned to my labs, and did his best to put us at ease. Based on what he’s seeing, he’s not concerned about AML at this point, thinking that this is most likely something called lymphocytopenia, which is a condition where I have an abnormally low level of lymphocytes in my blood. This is usually a result of having a cold, viral or fungal infections, or more severe things like HIV (which I tested negative for), MS, and chemotherapy.
So I did another big blood panel, and we got the CBC results back this afternoon. Shockingly, many of the important things bumped upwards: neutrophils, lymphocytes, and my overall white blood cell count. We’re waiting on the results of some specialized tests—one for something called CD4, the T-cells which fight off bacteria and viruses. If that result comes in low, they’re going to put me on an antibiotic called Bactrim, which will help my system until my levels come back up.
So, in the larger picture, I’m not happy to be dealing with a lowered immune system, but if that’s the worst extent of it, I’m thanking whatever guardian angels I have for their continued watch over my humble head.