Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Generalized Signs of a Blood Cancer

When Tyler was first diagnosed, we saw a poster in the hospital that outlined 7 signs of a blood cancer. Tyler had been experiencing 5 of the 7 signs for some time, but he was attributing them to getting older. If we had known what to look for, we could have gotten him in to see a doctor even earlier.

In my conversation with Hans and Cynthia over the weekend, we discussed this same thing. "If I had known that these puzzle pieces are assembled into something called cancer, I would I have gone to the doctor much earlier...." With that in mind, I wanted to share a list of some things to watch out for. Many of these symptoms can exist without cancer or with other types of cancer. Just use them as a hint to get some blood work and a physical. This list is taken from the Online Cancer Guide.

The leukemia symptoms or blood cancer symptoms depend on the stage of the cancer meaning how much and how far the cancer has grown. Each type of leukemia has its own symptoms. But some of the general leukemia symptoms or blood cancer symptoms are as follows:

- Feeling tired or weakness and fatigue.
- Experiencing a bodily discomfort which is malaise
- Reduced exercise tolerance
- Loss of appetite or not feeling hungry
- Weight loss
- Pain in the bones and joints
- Infection and fever
- Night sweats.
- Abdominal pain or "fullness"
- Enlarged spleen, lymph nodes, and liver
- Frequent or unusual infections.
- Headaches.
- Swelling in the belly or pain on the left side of the belly or in the left shoulder from a swollen spleen.
- Swollen lymph nodes in the armpit, neck, or groin.

For Tyler, the most obvious symptoms were:

1. Night Sweats -- he would wake up in the middle of the night drenched in sweat. It was so bad that he often had to change t-shirts in the middle of the night.

2. Weakness and Fatigue -- Our doctor asked how long Tyler had been feeling "not well" and when he last felt "normal". Tyler said it had been at least a year.

3. Reduced Exercise Tolerance -- This is the one that had me pushing for a doctor's visit even before diagnosis. After playing soccer, Tyler would experience racking chills and nausea. The chills were really bad and definitely NOT NORMAL and the nausea was new for him.

4. Frequent or unusual infections -- the kicker for Tyler was the respiratory infection he got right before the wedding. He classified it as the sickest he had ever been. It turned out to be a very deep bronchitis or pneumonia and it took IV antibiotics to get him healthy again.

5. Headaches -- Tyler had more than his normal amount of headaches.

He also had a swollen spleen, although we didn't catch that before diagnosis.

I worry about my friends and teammates more now, than I have over the past two years since Tyler's diagnosis. The odds are just too unusual that two close friends would be diagnosed with the exact same disease within 2 years of each other. With that in mind, we decided to post some of the symptoms that we went through. If you are experiencing these symptoms, please see your doctor. We hope it is nothing more than hypochondria, but it doesn't hurt to take advantage of their expertise on this one.

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