a blocky illustration of two hands, one holding a letter from the government that is the 1960's army draft, the other hand holding a paper that is blood lab results.

The Numbers Game

Have you ever played a lottery? Many states, including mine, offer millions in prize money. But there are only a few winners and a whole lot of losers, so the states rake in the dough.

I’ve never purposely been involved in lotteries. I feel the odds are stacked against me and I have better ways to spend my bread. But, I did have one imposed upon me once.

Some reading this will be too young to remember when our country had a draft. It was a time when you could be forced into military service.

My first lottery: The draft

During the Vietnam War, they developed a unique way to do this. They had a lottery.

Basically, numbers were randomly assigned to every date of the year. Whichever number landed on your birthday indicated your chances of getting drafted. The smaller the number, the most likely you’d be joining Uncle Sam on the battlefield. If you got number 365 you had it made. If you got number one, well, not so much.

My number was 18.

Yeah, I was going to be vacationing in Vietnam. (By the way, you really can vacation in Vietnam now. That seems so weird to me.)

I didn’t want to get drafted into the Army so I applied to the Navy. I actually really wanted to be in the Navy. I grew up by the ocean so it seemed a logical choice. As it turns out, they didn’t take me because of an operation I had when I was a baby. Crazy as it might sound to some, I was disappointed. But at least I didn’t have to fight in Vietnam.

My current lottery: Blood tests

I have blood tests (“Labs” as we professional cancer patients call them) every three months. And every three months I feel like I’m entering a lottery. Not the good kind where I might win big money. No, more like the bad kind where it’s gonna cost me money, or worse.

So far my “numbers” are good. Well, they’d be friggin high for a healthy person, but considering I have leukemia, they’re not too bad. At least they’ve flattened out for now.

It pretty much goes like this: I get my labs back... yay, the numbers are no worse than last time. Then for the next couple of months, I’m feeling pretty good about things. But somewhere near the end of the second month, the apprehension builds.

What are the labs going to show this time? I’ve been feeling good, but my cousin, who has the same type of leukemia as me (CLL), felt good too. But then a lymph node swelled to the size of a golf ball and he had to have chemo.

I’m not a big worrier. Most of the time I’m pretty positive. But every three months Leuk puts his finger on the scales tipping me off balance. I just had more blood tests last week so I’m good for a couple of months, but I’m sure Leuk will be patiently waiting for me three months from now.

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