Recent Health Issues

You may have noticed that I’ve been absent on the blog and a few of my normal haunts lately. To some of you, this won’t be news. You’ve all been super supportive, and I appreciate that very much.

I’ve gained a lot of weight in the last year or so, and I’ve been exhausted a lot. I just figured I was just lazy and eating too much crap. Of course, a new baby sure does sap away your strength. But, Aubrey is sleeping through most of the night now, and I tried to make a conscious effort to watch what I eat, but I’m still tired and fat. My father died in January of a heart attack, and that was on my mind. I finally decided that it was time to see my general practitioner about the rapid weight gain, and always being hungry.

Blood tests happened. And more blood tests happened. My white cell count was something like double to quadruple where it should’ve been. My GP referred me to a Hematologist for further testing. More blood tests.

I showed up at the Hematologist’s office to get the results. He sat me down, and declared, “We have a problem.”

I’m like, no shit, that’s why I was referred to you. BOOM, he dropped one hell of a bomb on me. He advised me that he had a preliminary diagnosis of Leukemia. Mutha fuckin’ cancer.

Deep breath.

It’s not a death sentence. He, and several colleagues and friends told me that they knew people who had Leukemia and lived years and decades with it. It was pretty odd that I have Leukemia. That mostly happens to people much older than I am. We need more tests to check it out, and really to confirm that it is indeed Leukemia. Can we drill into your hip and take a bone marrow sample for a biopsy?

Uh, I guess so.

Great! We’ll schedule it for my lunch hour a week from today.

I exaggerate the Hematologist for the narrative. There was a lot more talking and explaining, but that doesn’t make for a good story…

I tell Erika the news over the phone, and inform her that I’m going to Panda Express and getting enough orange chicken and the biggest cup of Mountain Dew they’ve got. (I stopped drinking the nectar of the gods while trying to eat better.) She’s all. The kids don’t like Panda. You guessed it; I didn’t give a flying fructose what the kids wanted for dinner.

Erika and I decided we would wait to tell the children until after the biopsy. I had to tell the family, and my employer because I had to take the following Tuesday off for my bone marrow biopsy. Since my father died without a will or insurance, I was looking into both, and had already applied for life insurance. I figure I’ve got at a minimum of sixteen years left to live, since I’ve got fifteen years left on my life insurance policy.

Erika keeps telling me that that joke’s not funny. The Hematologist says no one can be sure, but if we confirm Leukemia, he expects me to live another thirty years.

I’ve been told stories of people getting diagnosed with Leukemia, and then dying of old age forty years later. One of Erika’s friends even told her that he had a Leukemia diagnosis twenty years ago, and they’ve never treated it because it wasn’t doing anything. A co-worker told me that her son was diagnosed at age seventeen, and now in his thirties, he’s cancer free. The Wednesday morning talk show host has stage four inoperable malignant cancer, and he told me that I had to wake up every morning and kick cancer’s ass.

Anyway, back to the narrative. It’s the following week. Erika drives me to the regional hospital for my bone marrow biopsy. I played it stoic, but shit, I was nervous. Had to wait an hour in the biopsy suite for the hematologist. The tech had only done one bone marrow biopsy before this one, and had a crib sheet. Yeah, I was nervous as hell.

I’m imagining some sort of electric device. Nope! Can’t do that, it’d likely destroy any sample obtained. This sample has to be retrieved by hand. I didn’t see the actual drill, so years of watching bad science fiction kicked in. He gave me a local anesthesia. But anesthesia only affects skin and muscle. Nothing short of a spinal tap or something can make you stop feeling it when someone “drills” into your hipbone. Did I mention that the hipbone is like the hardest bone in your whole body? Scroll, scroll; nope I sure didn’t.

Now the Hematologist is a man with a small stature. He had to put all his weight onto the hand drill for each turn. It wasn’t painful per se, but there was a lot of pressure. I could feel everything. I could hear each grunt as the Hematologist exerted concerted effort to drill the proper depth into my hip.

“Hey, Mark, as long as this sample is viable, we’re all done.”

What? You mean that I might have to do this shit all over again?

The sample was golf tango golf. (That’s GTG, or “good to go” for all you non-military types.) He said some stuff. I honestly wasn’t paying attention. The tech dropped one of the glass slides on the floor. “No worries, we have extra slides!” The Hematologist bounced outta there with some words of encouragement – I think. The floor nurse had to check my vitals and stuff. They wanted to observe me for twenty minutes or so. That worked for me. I had sent Erika and the baby home. It’d take her about twenty minutes to get Aubrey in her seat and drive back to the hospital to pick me up, anyway.

The nurse was going to check on me in twenty minutes. I asked her to just sit with me for the duration. She smiled her matronly smile, and popped a squat beside me. We made small talk for the twenty minutes. I mean, what can you really talk to someone about after they had to stare at your hairy ass for the procedure? We talked books. Go figure, right? I really don’t know. I recall giving her one of my business cards, so I assume we talked about my favorite subject – me. LOL, right?

Erika picked me up and we went home. I was stiff and not very mobile for the rest of the week. In case I didn’t mention it earlier, the biopsy was on a Tuesday. (I’m not even gonna to scroll up to see if I did mention it.) Of course I had to do some work on my 2006 Mac Pro on Saturday. I was feeling pretty good. My hip was mostly back to normal. The Mac is on the top of my writing armoire, behind the forty-inch Sony. Anthony is almost as tall as I am, so I solicited his assistance. The damn thing is like fifty pounds. Any I did my maintenance and returned the Mac to it’s home. (Does anyone know where I can get replacement RAM daughter boards really cheap?) I cleaned up the cables to the Time Capsule (That’s dying too. Not that I’m comparing it to me. I’m not dying. Well, actually we’re all dying. I think I heard someone say that Life is the only prognosis that is 100% fatal.)

Mark, Mark, hold up. Why are you telling us about you computer and your odd tangent? We only pretend to care when you talk about that kind of stuff.

Well fictional question asker, I’m glad that you asked. I can only assume that I threw out my back or something similar that Saturday. Keep reading, the payoff is totally worth it. Sunday I was lounging on the sofa again. My back was having nothing to do with anything else. Heat is what you use on an angry back right? Instead of an electric heating pad with settings and timers and stuff, we have this cloth pillow-thing that has I was told corn kernels in it. I nuke it for a minute in the microwave and it gets hot. Toss a towel or blanket on it to adjust the temperature.

Now here’s where the big payoff is. I burnt my ass. Literally. I’ll wait for you to finish laughing.

Okay, that’s enough. I’ve got the dumbest problems. This dumbass burnt his stupid ass. I’m sure Erika made some joke about brain damage.

Okay enough tangential stories. Let’s get back to me having Leukemia. After all, that’s really what this long-ass post is all about. The following Tuesday, I go in to get the bone marrow biopsy results. Up until this point, I’d gone solo. Erika wasn’t having anymore of that. She went with me to the Hematologist’s office. She was going with me to the nutritionist appointment later that day.

Oh, yeah. My A1C, or blood sugar is too high. I’m not diabetic, but my GP says I need to get me shit together. Diabetes on top of Leukemia is no fun at all.

Anyway, the bone marrow biopsy confirmed the diagnosis of Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia. Questions were asked. Mostly by Erika. Apparently, CLL is the most common form of Leukemia. If they do cure it, that’ll be the one to get cured. I’m young, so we can manage it. A CAT scan and blood work every six months to keep an eye on it. By the way, we need to do a CAT scan next week so we have a baseline view of your lymph nodes. We’ll talk to your insurance.

Then it was off to the nutritionist. That was the worst two hours of my life. How can that be, you may ask. Surely, getting that initial diagnosis of Leukemia was the worst time of your life. Not really. The hematologist didn’t tell me that I wasn’t allowed to eat potatoes and corn. POTATOES AND CORN! My totes-magotes fav-fav. Mashed ‘taters and garlic buttered corn. I’m sad just writing about it. What am I going to have with my steak? She listed off a bunch of vegetables. Ugh, vegetables. I did learn that I’m not a fan of vegetables with the exception of raw carrots and asparagus. (Corn doesn’t count, since I’m not allowed to eat it.)

It gets worse. The nutritionist doesn’t want me eating more than 60g of carbohydrates per meal. I do get two 30g snacks a day, but no more! The first meal I had after receiving this horrific news was this: two toasted slices of multi-grain bread, two tablespoons of natural peanut butter, four baby carrots, and a protein shake. –sniff, sniff– Please excuse me; I’m a little bit verklempt.

Anyway, I’d already been eating better than I had in the past for a month since my A1C was too high. I’d do the 60g carbohydrate diet for my family. I’ve been mostly managing to stick to it. I did cheat when the FCC inspector visited the station for our regular FCC inspection.

It’s been over a week and my shitty insurance still hasn’t approved the CAT scan yet. I’ll need to make some calls on Monday and light a fire under someone’s posterior. (You thought I was gonna say ass.)

So that’s the skinny on the current life of a fat man. I’m doing my best to stick to the 60g thing. Instead of writing more Moonrise, I wrote this instead. (Sorry, Cindy!) I’m not entirely sure why I even wrote this, much less posted it without editing it. I’m changing my lifestyle after the one-two punch of Leukemia and an elevated A1C.

I’m not trolling for sympathy. I don’t mean this as a slight, but I’ve gotten as much sympathy I can handle, and I’m an attention whore! This is just the latest happenings in my life. I don’t expect it to affect my writing schedule. Anyway, I’ve already rambled on for 2,000 words, so it’s time to sign off now.

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About Mark Gardner

Mark Gardner lives in northern Arizona with his wife, three children and a pair of spoiled dogs. Mark holds a degree in Computer Systems and Applications and is currently attending Northern Arizona University. View all posts by Mark Gardner

21 responses to “Recent Health Issues

  • Writer12

    Thank you for letting us know what’s going on, Mark. You have a great sense of humor and perspective on things, which is good for your health. You’ve got this, Poppa Mark! Prayers and a hug, Ruby :)

  • Linda

    LOVE YOU! Don’t forget to keep other members of your fan club/family informed. I hope you followed thru with what your aunt told you. Lots of people continue to pray for you. Thanks for this.

  • Jennie Ensor

    Saw this post and couldn’t stop reading, feeling sad now.This is so tough for you and your family – just hang on in there

  • The Lady T'Kaat

    I hate Nutritionists. Of course it’s not their fault, but really, can’t they see that we need to eat? Always saying what not to eat. With restrictions for Diabetes, Heart failure, Kidney failure, Reflux and Gout, it’s really hard for my husband to find anything he CAN eat. He manages by cheating in very small ways. It keeps us both sane and him alive. You will work out what is best for you and your family, too.
    The Lady T’Kaat of Kaat’s Keep

    • Mark Gardner

      Ouch! I don’t know how you do it. I planned on cheating today when we went to the steakhouse but I just couldn’t do it. I picked the best part of the salad out. (the croutons.)

  • Cindy Vaskova

    One of the healthiest things for taking up life is humor and your sense of it in this blog post is admirable. I’m really glad that you wrote this instead of Moonrise and allowed all of us this precious and heartbreaking insight into your life.

  • SebnemSanders

    Dear Mark,
    I wish you well and I want you to see those babes grow up and make their own lives. Don’t dwell too much on what the doctors say, we are not just statistics, but each of us unique human beings. I know you have the strength to fight and I know you will make it, my friend. Fondest wishes, big hugs and much love. :)

  • Inked Quill

    I’m sad to hear your news.

    Hopefully writing this has helped you to clear out some fuzz from your brain that you have been carrying around since your diagnoses and I will send you positive vibes as often as I remember. x

    • Mark Gardner

      Thanks for your positive vibes, Naomi. Writing this has helped clear out the fuzz, but I’ve told this story a lot lately, so now I have something to refer people to.

      • Inked Quill

        It’s always difficult to try to take that first step forward from a diagnosis like this when you keep having to think back to it when telling people.

        Hopefully directing people here so you can just take that step will help.

  • Miss Alister

    Sad news, Mr. Prolific… I know well the bombs Life can drop on a person, like to steal what they love most. But you will do well with your Scorpio will. You just have to!

  • Adan Ramie

    When I first read this post, I really didn’t know what to say, so I put it off for a couple of days.

    Should I say I’m sorry that you got this diagnosis? Maybe. Should I send my best to your family? Probably. Should I commiserate with a reduction in carbs? I can definitely do that, because it sucks.

    But I couldn’t just say that. It didn’t feel like enough.

    What I really want to say is that I know you can kick the crap out of Leukemia, Mark.

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