Old Blood Tests Lead to Diagnosis

Last updated: November 2022

People who have blood cancer often learn about it while undergoing routine blood tests or other procedures. Others find out by chance. I was such a person. But that is not the complete picture.

Rewind to about a decade ago when I knew something was wrong. That hunch lasted for about 1½ years. When I saw my then-primary doctor, I told her I wasn’t feeling well or like myself.

Feeling terrible

I could barely eat without feeling sick. Above all, I could not shake the overwhelming fatigue that plagued me. It was not a normal tiredness from staying up late a lot or whatever. I also shared these concerns with my gynecologist.

Both docs pointed out I was working full-time and acting as primary caregiver for my mother who had numerous medical problems and hospital stays. That resulted in stress, no doubt.

Women of a certain age?

Therefore, my fatigue was attributed to stress and the toll of a busy life. I was in my 40s at the time and I remember a nurse once told me that I was feeling this way because that’s what happens when women are of a “certain age.”

I was not the advocate, proactive patient I am today. I accepted what they told me although as the months dragged on, I became more frustrated that no help or answers were forthcoming.

The year following my mother’s death, I made a move across my state about 90 minutes away. It was a big decision and change in my life. Once again, my health issues were chalked up to stress and this milestone.

During my last visit with my doctor, I started telling her about symptoms I was experiencing which now included aches and pains. She sort of rolled her eyes when I was speaking at one point and tried to hurry me along. I remember thinking in that moment that I was done with her, in need of a new doctor and one closer to my new home.

Trust your intuition

I wanted someone who would take my concerns seriously. Before I left her office, I asked the doctor if I could have my last blood test results. They were from nine months before, turns out. I believe I hadn’t heard anything about them. She reluctantly went to her computer, glanced at it, and said my bloodwork was fine.

But something kept nagging at me. Call it intuition. Before I left, I verified with her what she was looking at were my latest results.

A few days later, I saw my urologist and before I left, I asked him if I could have a print out of those old blood test results. I asked at his office so I wouldn’t have to walk all the way to another building where my primary was located.

A review of my old blood tests

The urologist said “sure,” and was even the person to retrieve the paper from the printer. I’ll never forget that moment. He glanced at the results and said: “Susan, don’t look at the numbers. What is she doing for you? You need a hematologist.” He sounded panicked.

Soon after, I was set up with my first hematologist (who I saw only twice briefly). More bloodwork was conducted and she preliminarily told me it was either leukemia or a bone marrow disorder.

The next step was having my records and information forwarded closer to my new hometown. I live next to the second largest city in Massachusetts which has a university medical center. And that’s where my blood cancer journey with chronic myeloid leukemia really begins.

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