Woman inspecting a bruise on her arm with a magnifying glass

So Many Signs, So Much Worry

Last updated: May 2019

If you have had two kinds of cancer, you get to worry about two sets of signs that could be something bad.

In the part of my mind that worries about leukemia recurrence, fatigue sets off alarm bells, as do black and blue marks. For the skin cancer side, it’s little flaky pieces of skin.

My skin cancer fears

Since this is a blood cancer site, I’ll deal briefly with the skin cancer fears. As I’ve said before, my transplant history and my daily dose of prednisone put me at risk for squamous cell carcinomas. They manifest as little bits of flaky skin.

Today, I looked at a spot on my forehead and thought, “Oh no, another squamous cell.”

Then I told myself it could also be dry skin. Since these things grow slowly, I made a mental note to see if it goes away with moisturizer, and if not, to show it to my dermatologist at my next visit.

As for leukemia relapse, I’m way past the stage where this is a risk. As I write this, it’s less than a week before my 10th “re-birthday.”

But a little PTSD can go a long way.

Black and blue and worry

And so I have a knee-jerk reaction to things like the big black and blue mark that I have on my left arm. In the bad old days, black and blue marks were a sign of low platelets. And low platelets, along with other low blood counts, were the first sign that I had acute myeloid leukemia.

I know how I got the bruise I have now, but since it’s a VERY BIG bruise, I worried that my platelets could be low.

When it's nothing, but you worry that it's something

Is the suspense killing you?

It happened during a tennis game when I whacked myself with my racquet on a follow through. The racquet is supposed to go over your shoulder, not onto your arm, duh. I showed it to my dentist yesterday and he said it must have gone down to the bone. He said he did not think it was a sign of low platelets.

I guess I didn’t realize my own strength.

If I’m tired these days, it’s often because I move around a lot, what with tennis, running, or walking my dog. At times I probably do too much. That’s when I might question my fatigue.

Is something wrong? From bruises to night sweats

It’s a groove in an old record album, where the needle got stuck.

Sometimes I sweat in the middle of the night.

Night sweats came with cancer. Now when it happens I’m just hot. But I still get a twinge of worry.

Throughout your “career” as a blood cancer patient, you dwell on your counts. At one recent visit, my hematocrit was a little low. I believe it was 29.9. (For women, normal hematocrit ranges from 35.5 to 44.9 percent.1)

I told my nurse practitioner that I was worried. She reassured me by showing me the range over time. At one point maybe six or eight months prior, it was also a little under 30.

The next time, and the time after, it was back up to 33 or 34. After my transplants, I never got back up to the “normal” high range, but that was normal for me.

A little reassurance goes a long way.

You can get it from your healthcare professional or you can get it from yourself by focusing on the real instead of the imagined causes of your symptoms.

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