This is the third post in a series titled, Today’s Reality. The series will chronicle my journey to remission from Chronic Myeloid Leukemia (CML). My outlook as I begin this new phase in my life and blog series is living in the moment in mind, body, and spirit. I am not angry. I refuse to be sad. I am determined to live a long life with love and peace in my heart with the confidence of a better tomorrow filled with joy and humor.
Tomorrow, will mark 30 days since learning I have CML. Cancer. Today, I look back over the past year to see if perhaps I missed signs that my body was giving me clues to my diagnosis 30 days ago.
Were these signs of cancer?
As I looked back to the beginning of 2020, I scoured my writing, blog posts, social media, and my memory for clues in mind, body, and spirit. I had started a blog series here on The Blogging Owl, “COVID-19” to document what it was like to be in a global pandemic.
My first COVID-19 blog post was on March 28, 2020 – COVID-19 Isolated Thoughts (https://thebloggingowl.com/2020/03/28/covid-19-isolated-thoughts/).
I was stunned to read my own words,
“What happens when we find out about the people whose preventative health care appointments were cancelled because of the overwhelming cases of COVID-19 and are then diagnosed with a terminal illness or disease? What if cancer is lurking inside me and I won’t be able to find out until it is too late?”
As of this post, 7 months later, my primary care and gastroenterologist physicians are still not taking in-office appointments – only web appointments.
For the love of scotch! I stink!
This summer I spent most of my time at our northern home on Lake Michigan. It was wonderful to have the opportunity to continue working 100% remotely and be able to enjoy our home, they are affectionately called, ‘Heaven’s Lighthouse – Owls Bliss.’ Although my husband, Vinny Sal also works remotely, he would come and go between our home in southeast Michigan to Heaven’s Lighthouse. I was pretty much on my own during the week.
I do not care for air conditioning and I prefer fresh air from open windows unless the humidity is intolerable. I was often wearing a tank and shorts or a lightweight cotton PJ’s while working at my desk all day. My office faces the lake so there was always plenty of air flowing through the three windows in my office which also serves as a guest room.
Everyone has their own distinct odor when they sweat. Take a shower, roll on deodorant, and everyone is good to go, right? Yet, my natural body odor had taken on a distinct aroma. Sort of like a pungent garlic, cumin, musky smell. It was horrible! It was worse then opening up a lacrosse bag of a pubescent boy!
I was at a loss as to why the scent of my body odor had changed so drastically. I was eating simple, healthy meals like salmon Caesar salads, chicken, and roasted vegetables. In addition, I was not highly active enough to work up a sweat and spent most of my off time at the beach swimming. Yet even coming out of the water, I still stank to high heaven!
Then I started getting Snapchats from my nurse friend with photos of natural deodorants she was trying out. For the love of scotch! I thought, “can she smell me from four hours away?” I had not even confessed to her that I was experiencing such odd body odor. I could not bring myself to talk to anyone about it, although I knew my husband could detect it, he never mentioned it. (Yes, he is a saint.)
I tried the deodorants she was trying as well as branched out on my own hunt for a deodorant that would overcome the overwhelming stench. I do not like scented deodorants but most of the deodorants I was experimenting were scented and often made the stench worse. In fact, I could still smell myself after swimming. I constantly bathed and scrubbed my pits raw using antibacterial soap.
Since my diagnosis, I wondered if the change in my body odor was from a hormonal aging thing or was it the leukemia. My research took me to an article, “Does cancer smell? Can people smell cancer?” https://cancerdocs.com/blog/cancer-smell/. There are scientific research studies on cancer odor, but none that I could find on specifically on leukemia.
The article did raise important research studies using animals for cancer detection:
“Dogs have an astonishing sense of smell. Their ability to identify odors and scents is 10,000 to 100,000 times more powerful than humans are capable of identifying. In fact, dogs can identify the scents with just one part in a trillion (PPT). Dogs have 300 million olfactory receptors in their highly, sensitive notices. Humans average a paltry 6 million. No wonder they catch more scents than humans do. Scientists are testing to see whether their incredible sense of smell can lead to early identification of cancers.”
My pups, Barkley, and Penny
I have been rescuing dogs for years. My first 2 rescues, Mona Lisa and Bailey Sue knew I was in labor with my first son before I did. All day long, they laid their heads in my lap and would not leave me alone until I realized I, myself, realized I was in labor almost 12 hours later.
My current pups, Barkley and Penny are my shadows. However, looking back over the summer months, Barkley was much more attentive. He was always by my side, outside of the bathroom door, or he especially wanted attention laying in bed with me. Barkley was never this clingy before. He had back surgery a few years ago, so I wondered if it was him that was sick. Unfortunately, because of COVID-19, the vet was not taking appointments unless it was an emergency. So, I gave him pain medication for his arthritis per the vet’s recommendation and gave him extra attention and love.
I am wondering now if Barkley sensed my cancer all along.
Please spleen this to me, I mean EXPLAIN.
Since working remotely, who needs to wear a bra, right? Woo hoo! What a relief. Wearing a bra, even a camisole, or sitting upright became increasingly uncomfortable. I had not gained weight, but I could not find a bra or camisole that was comfortable to wear for any amount of time.
I had no idea when I was laying there on the examining table in the ER describing the tremendous pain in my chest and abdomen that my spleen was the cause. Heck, I did not even know where the spleen was in my body nor its’ function. The spleen is a fist-sized organ in the upper left side of the abdomen, next to the stomach and behind the left ribs. No wonder! I always thought I was having heart issues. But this time, I thought it could be appendicitis. My spleen had grown to two fist sizes and could not keep up with my white cells that were vastly multiplying out of control.
My spleen was the reason for my discomfort. I certainly do not need an excuse not to wear a bra, but I know now it was not because I was gaining weight. Although I would take that over leukemia any day!
No Tears, No Fear, God it Here!
30 days into my cancer diagnosis and over 14 days into chemotherapy. I have had a few days where depression wanted to take over. I allowed myself to feel it and then I said, “Okay, let’s get on with it.”
The depression had slipped in not because of my diagnosis nor because of chemotherapy. My depressed feelings came from having leukemia in global pandemic due to COVID-19. The number of coronavirus infections and dying are rising across the country again. The winter flu season is upon us. Coronavirus + flu + winter + a national lockdown = months of isolation. I have family and friends exposed to the coronavirus, who are sick and have been hospitalized.
Yet Donald Trump insists the United States is turning the corner. 2020 may well end worse than how it began. We are 12 days away from the presidential election. Please VOTE whether by absentee ballot or in person just do it masked and safely social distance.
Please! If you are feeling sick, don’t wait it out like I almost did on the morning of September 25th. Don’t accept a web appointment, go to the ER!
Okay! Let’s get on with it! The remission mission is moving in the right direction. My oncology appointments and lab results have been encouraging so far. GOD IS HERE!
The Blogging Owl
This series, Today’s Reality will also offer a spiritual perspective on my website, The Prayer Journals, as well as, a literary perspective on my website, The Owl Poet. I hope you will also follow me on those blogs too!
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