My PV was diagnosed early
First and foremost, I am lucky because I caught my cancers early; both the polycythemia vera (PV) and the breast cancer.
A major thrombotic event like a stroke, heart attack, or blood clot is frequently how PV patients are diagnosed. In my case, a routine blood test identified my blood levels were elevated, especially my platelets. If I had blown off my annual physical - which I’ve been guilty of doing in the past – who knows what the outcome might have been. I was able to receive treatment in a timely manner and it likely saved my life.
My breast cancer was also diagnosed early. I felt a lump, immediately went and had it checked out and caught it before it spread to outside the tumor margin. Although I still had to endure chemo and surgery, if I hadn’t caught it early my prognosis could have been much worse. It’s been over three years since my diagnosis and I am still in a “no evidence of disease” status. I thank God. Every. Single. Day!
Mild symptoms and side effects
Why else am I lucky? Well, despite the cancers and various treatments, both my symptoms and side effects have been and are generally mild. With my breast cancer treatment, even the chemo wasn’t incapacitating.
The PV, although I do have some symptoms like fatigue and pruritus (itching) it’s not overwhelming. I still work full time, exercise, and do most activities I did prior to the diagnosis. That’s not always the case for others. Some PV patients experience symptom burden that is so extremely debilitating it significantly impacts their quality of life.
I take an obscene amount of medications for both cancers and am fortunate to not have too many noticeable or annoying side effects with any of them.
Incredible support network
Another reason I feel lucky is my wonderful support network. I have been so fortunate to have family, friends, co-workers, health care providers, and other cancer warriors that have helped me throughout my sometimes arduous cancer journey. I couldn’t have managed without all these incredible people.
I’ve heard horror stories of family members and friends distancing themselves, spouses divorcing and people losing their jobs because of cancer. Wow! There are no words!
No financial issues
Financially, I consider myself lucky also. I am retired Army. The military health care system not only diagnosed both cancers but also provides all my treatment and most medications. I have no idea how much the chemo, surgeries, procedures, labs, ER visits, and inpatient admissions cost the past three plus years as I pay little to nothing for my care. Even the recently FDA approved PV medication that my counterparts – with good insurance – pay a co-pay upwards of $4000 a month, is free to me. That’s crazy expensive! Yes, I’m definitely lucky!
Opportunity to reassess my life
I’m still here! I’m still alive! Cancer, regardless of what kind increases one’s mortality. I feel incredibly blessed to still be around. Having cancer has also given me an opportunity to reassess my life and to focus on the people and things that matter to me the most.
Yes, I would prefer to not have any cancers, but for the moment… I feel pretty darn lucky!
What type of blood cancer are you or your loved one diagnosed with?