Thursday, June 7, 2012

Now I'm not the sort to complain, but...

Thanks go out to my loyal readers, especially those who gave me some vacation advice.  I'm not sure where I'm going to go but I think I'll put something together at some point, even if just to have something to look forward to.  I always advocate that to other patients who come to me with questions on coping.  This is unrelated to the post title, by the way, I'm not going to complain about you guys.  Anyway, onward.

I really am not the sort to complain.  I usually trust my doctor's word and follow his or her advice, as I think it's kind of a waste of money to go to a doctor only to ignore them.  If a lab tech can't find my vein and has to dig around a bit I grin and bear it, and if they apologize I wave it off (with the arm they're not sticking) as though it's nothing, and really it isn't a big deal.  So in general I have no expectations or demands as to my own comfort or preference.  If I'm in pain I'll tell my doctor, but only so my doctor is aware of it as a possible symptom.  If I'm worried about something I'll ask a question.  Usually I won't make any demands for action.  I understand that what I'm going through is not going to be fun and sometimes I need to be brave, for everyone's sake.  I also have near endless sympathy for the sheer volume of bullshit most doctors must endure from all sides, and would not like to contribute to it any.

However, in my line of work I've learned to recognize patterns, and when the facts don't match the patterns, I start looking for reasons why.  And yesterday, that lead me to, for the first time ever, ask a medical professional to redo a test.

Last week, my platelet count was at 83,000 per microliter: improving, but still half the minimum limit on "normal."  Yesterday, they did a finger stick and it came back at 36,000 per microliter.  They asked me if I've been taking my chemo (I haven't, since the reason I'd come three weeks in a row was to see if I was ready).  Then they got that grave, pregnant silence a doctor gets when they don't know enough to tell you what's wrong, but none of the possibilities are good.

So I asked the lab tech if it's possible for these tests to be wrong.  Brief note here; I am extremely lucky that everyone in my oncologist's office is both knowledgeable and humble enough never to take a question like that the wrong way.  The tech told me that the rest of my levels looked normal so it seemed unlikely, but that she'd be happy to run the test again if I wanted.  I agreed, and this time she took blood from my arm.

This wasn't the cute lab tech that usually draws my blood, however she passed by the exam room, saw me in there, and came to sit with me while I waited for the results.  Very kind of her.  If there are any lab techs, nurses, doctors or other medical staff reading this, do not underestimate the value of simply being there for a worried patient, even if you have no reassurances to offer.

The results came back, showing a platelet count of 158,000 per microliter.  8,000 over the minimum to be considered "normal."  My doctor told me to go home and take my pills. 

I'm still not the sort to complain.  Sure, I now wonder about the validity of my results all the other times they ran a CBC from a finger stick, and I wonder what would have been going through my head right now had I not asked for a retest (leukemia.  I'd be worried that I had leukemia), but I don't blame them for what happened.  I'm not angry that I had to get stuck twice instead of just once.  I'm not going to complain about something that's necessary just because it's unpleasant.

Still, if something doesn't make sense to me, I'm going to ask questions.  Imprecise though it may be, medicine is a science.  Every effect has a cause.  As long as we can leave blame and fault out of it, looking for that cause can be to everyone's benefit.


  1. That's a very important lesson to learn. I think that getting the blood from your arm might be more precise than from the finger. It might be a good idea to get the next one from your arm. Thanks for posting that information. Its always best to be an informed patient.

  2. Congrats on not having leukemia! (and on being assertive regarding your health)
    Praying for you :)