fuck cancer

I haven’t said anything publicly about this yet, because I wanted to make sure certain people weren’t surprised by internet news without hearing it from me first. I wasn’t going to blog this, but that feels… inconsistent? I’ve been blogging milestones and stuff for 15 years now, and it feels weird to not blog this. So.

First, this is going to sound scary. It’s not. (well, mostly.) I’m fine, and will be for a long, long time.

I’ve been experiencing fatigue for almost 2 years now, and had chalked it up to job-related stress. To the point that I was starting to plan on quitting my job and looking for another career.

My annual blood tests have shown that I have been mildly anemic, with low hemoglobin. That explains the fatigue. Perfect. I don’t have to quit my job!

But, anemia is not a thing on its own – it’s a symptom of something else. And we had no idea what.

Coincidentally, I’d applied for a new life insurance policy, and had to do a bunch of tests to make sure they weren’t actually going to have to pay out. And I was declined, for a weird reading on a protein level. Weird! WTF?

So, I follow up with my GP, and we re-run the tests. Yup. Some weird protein levels, with one specific type of antigen prompting a bit of concern.

And a BUNCH more tests. They basically tested everything to do with the production of red blood cells – 17 vials of blood were drawn in one sitting, and a CT scan, and a 24-hour urine collection test (that was… awkward…), and a bone marrow biopsy.

We just met with my hematologist at the Tom Baker centre, to discuss the results of that insane series of tests I’ve had done over the last few weeks. Turns out, yes, it’s officially cancer. But, it’s a form of lymphoma that is slow to progress – most people don’t show any symptoms until age 70 – and for now, we’re taking a “watchful waiting” approach. This form doesn’t cause tumours, so there’s no worry there. It’s just rogue plasma cells in the marrow, pumping out antigen proteins rather than making red blood cells.

I’ve most likely had it for many years (likely having the precancerous plasma cells from birth), and we only discovered it because of that life insurance screening.

The only symptom I’m experiencing is anemia (because the plasma cells inside the marrow have a portion turned to the dark side and aren’t producing helpful things like red blood cells). It’s currently not bad enough to warrant chemo or transfusions, which is great news.

So. Basically, everything is fine-ish. I will get blood tests monthly, likely for the next several decades, to monitor the condition. If things take a turn, we’ll regroup and figure out if it makes sense to start treatment then. We have a plan in place, just in case. I get bonus points for having a relatively rare form of cancer – maybe 150 people are diagnosed with it each year in Canada. No, there’s no badge for that. Yet…

We’re pretty relieved – if I have to have lymphoma, this is not an especially horrible one to have. And the team at the Tom Baker are fantastic.

I’ll be continuing both work and PhD – there’s no reason to alter any plans there, aside from promising Janice that I wouldn’t travel for awhile.

I’m fine. We’re doing well – it actually feels like a HUGE weight off my shoulders, now that I know what’s up. I’m feeling great, and am looking forward to being more active again.

Janice is amazing, and I don’t know how I would have coped with going through this without her. She’s awesome, and I’m grateful to have her as my partner. Evan knows, and is handling it well. He’s been very supportive as well – even mowed the lawn today!

Anyway. It sounds scarier than it is. No need to respond or anything – last thing I need is my inbox blowing up – but I wanted you to know what was going on.