In the afternoon of Thanksgiving Day 2014, despite getting FluMist 4 days earlier, I thought I’d come down with the mother of all flus. The symptoms came on very suddenly and in full force. Complete exhaustion, aching legs, headache, chills, and sore throat. That night, I had a fever. The next day, coughs and congestion.
The fever and many of the symptoms went away after about ten days, but the cough persisted and I felt increasingly exhausted by everything, even walking up and down the stairs to my house or just a few blocks to school to pick up Zoe and Griffin. I didn’t want to slog all the way to my primary doctor in Burlingame, so went to a local clinic that prescribed useless antibiotics and a codeine cough syrup.
One morning in mid-December, while sitting and working at my computer, I noticed that I could hear the rush of blood in my ears in tempo with my heartbeat, sort of like when you sleep with one ear on your pillow, only for me it was constant. The internet called it pulsatile tinnitus. Thinking it might indicate anemia, I finally went to see my primary doctor on December 19. She examined me and suspected simple respiratory infection, but ordered a blood test just in case.
That night, the doctor on call confirmed that I had anemia. Actually, with my hemoglobin at 6.3, it was severe enough that she would usually advise checking in to an ER for an immediate blood transfusion. Considering I wasn’t dizzy, hadn’t fainted, and was otherwise feeling okay, she left it up to my discretion but ordered another set of labs for the next morning. Then she suggested that I eat an iron-rich diet, in case the anemia was due to nutritional deficiency. No such luck! The results showed that my dietary minerals and vitamins were all looking good, so we had to find another cause for the anemia.
On December 23, I gave another set of blood samples and received my first transfusion. I met my hematologist, who said that the Stanford labs had found signs of leukemia in my blood, so she was sending them another set to get more complete information. That night, she called and broke the news. The rest is history.