“You Have Leukemia”: Symptoms I should have noticed
Leukemia symptoms are not far off from any other common day illness. At 23-years-old my family physician told me I had leukemia. If that wasn’t enough shock the doctor then told me I had it for months prior. By the time I actually went to the doctor the cancer took over 90% of my blood.
A few facts
Now leukemia is not like other cancers and there are several different types that one can have. In my case, I had Acute Myeloid Leukemia, for short AML.
Leukemia is a cancer of the blood. My doctors broke it down to me with the comparison of the security line in airports. Our bodies are constantly producing more cells and they are “checked-through-secutirty” as they are made. With AML it is as if a “threat” disguises themself to look normal to get through security. It then begins producing the wrong cells (myeloid cells) that take over nearly everything. With all the disguised cells reproducing the red cells, white cells and the platelets are not.
There are no stages on how severe it is, at least there was not in my situation. Leukemia can NOT be passed on genetically. It also it not common for the younger age demographic to get AML, it is actually more common for people 60 years +.
So how, and why?
Honestly there is no telling how I got leukemia. We can blame in on the GenX water in my city, the black-mold-infested-100-year-old building I lived in, the aftermath of being in an abusive relationship and losing several friends, the stress of working three jobs, the excess alcohol drinking and drug use of my teenage years. The list goes on but really there is no answer.
(Actual picture of my chromosomes, look at the 8th and 21st and see how they swapped bottom halves)
All I know is that the tail end of my 8th and 21st chromosome decided to switch places on one little cell and four months later I was in the hospital.
Question is why didn’t I listen to anything my body was telling me the four months prior to being diagnosed?
Leukemia Symptoms I should have payed more attention
Bleeding GumsFor almost five months my gums bled whenever I brushed my teeth. My dental hygienist told me it was gingivitis. I had trouble believing this because I am crazy about cleaning and brushing my teeth. Turns out it was the first sign of my platelets dropping (platelets are used to clot blood).
FatigueI was extremely tired. I worked three jobs at this point so I never payed much mind to being tired. It got to the point where I was not just tired I was physically weak. I could barely move a chair out of the way.
BruisingAnemia is something I’ve dealt with most of my life. It is common for me to have scrapes and bruises. Towards my diagnoses I began bruising by barely being touched. I worked a restaurant shift where carrying a plate left my armed bruised. I thought it was an iron deficiency.
NosebleedsThe nosebleeds started a month or two after my gums. They only happened in the shower for the longest time. Again, dealing with anemia I already was familiar with nose bleeds and didn’t think much of it. I thought it could of been from allergies. The week of diagnoses my nosebleeds were unreal. They lasted for hours where giant stringy blood clots came out every time I changed the tissue. It looked like something from a horror film.
Little pink dotsAbout a month out from diagnoses I started have small (SUPER SMALL) pink little pen sized dots all over my body. We realized they spread wherever my clothing hugged tighter. These dots are called petechiae and they are caused by a low platelet count. I thought they were from the cranberry vitamins I had taken to help detox my body.
Mood changeMy exhaustion level was at an all time high. I was not the person you wanted to be around. I found negativity in everything. I hated being in a social setting. Every little thing stressed me out. This was a symptom everyone could notice.
As you can see I have an excuse for almost every “symptom” that presented itself. The real problem was never talking to a medical professional. If I payed more attention to what my body was trying to tell (and show) me, I maybe could have caught this illness earlier and gone through a less intense treatment. All I want anyone to get from this post is that it is important to take care of yourself. Go to the doctor on (at least) a yearly basis. Pay attention to any changes your body may be making and ADDRESS them then and there. I never thought this would happen to me and it did, it can happen to anyone! So if you made it to the end of this just be aware and take care of yourself, thanks!