Cells in my blood, white blood corpuscles to be precise, have mutated and developed a sort of Lazarus capacity to live longer than the average cell.
In a comic book, that would be great, my blood lives longer than yours so I am Eternal Man! A hero who has lived for eons and who has accumulated the wisdom of Solomon and the muscle definition of Thor.
Sadly, in the real world, it means my blood is becoming overcrowded with geriatric and increasingly sickly cells. These old aged mutants collect in various glands, like a queue at the post office, and leave no room for the chirpy, fully functional white blood cells which my bones decide don’t need making any more because my blood is full up.
After a while my blood starts to resemble a once vibrant seaside resort settling into a graceless decline as it becomes a retirement town. My Dorian Gray cells will start to crowd out, not only, the healthy white corpuscles but also the rather more useful red ones that carry oxygen to my bits.
Instead of Lazarus Blood or the Juice of Eternal Life, doctors choose to call my mutation, Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia or CLL.
The Chronic part means it’s not curable, though it can be managed with chemotherapy. The Lymphocytic bit refers to the type of cell that has mutated, lymphocytes, and the Leaukeamia bit is the word that does have a superpower — the power to smack you round the face and force you to write a bucket list and regret not paying for life insurance, the Cancer word.
CLL develops slowly, it can take many years to gather its grey haired mutant army, and often it is diagnosed by accident in older patients. For me, its early days, I think I have had symptoms for a few months, tiredness to the point of exhaustion, a tendency to pick up and not lose infections and a painful neck (one of the favourite collecting points for the granny cells).
Two weeks ago I finally took these symptoms to my doctor, and he sent me for some blood tests then rang me the same evening to ask me to pop in first thing for a chat. That started a few bells ringing, but speculating is pointless. The next morning though he dropped the C word on me. Having lost (and not lost) a few good people to cancer, this sent me off into a short period of maudlin, which I easily cured by distraction, family and alcohol.
Currently I am waiting for a meeting with a Haematologist, who will decide the best way to control my geriatric white blood cells. The waiting is, I’m told, the worst bit and at this stage I would agree with that.
I’m good with this though, I don’t need superpowers to combat this problem, I need what I have already got but have sometimes forgotten, the most adorable wife and partner, family and friends that do what they do best — rally round, treat me as if nothing has changed and buy me beer, and a lifestyle and a career that mean I can take my time and focus on managing CLL.
I feel lucky, not everyone has such support, and I plan to pester everyone I know to help me do projects that do some good, you have been warned de-friend me now if you don’t want the embarrassment of having to turn down a request for a favour from me. I’ll keep you posted on the process, and will obviously let you know if I do develop an ability to climb up walls or jump tall building in a single bound.