Tuesday, April 03, 2007

To defray from the last post of badness, a note about my hypochondria

If you know me, you know I work at a cancer hospital. That means you know pretty much all of us here are raging hypochondriacs when it comes to cancer - not any other disease, just cancer, which kind of sucks. Sometimes I wish I worked with some other disease, like, uh, chicken pox. No rash? No pox! With cancer, of course, it is not that easy.

At first I thought it was me, and just me, who was a frickin' hypochondriac. Then my coworker, who is a colorectal cancer researcher, got a colonoscopy, because she was convinced she had polyps. The breast cancer researchers admitted to doing self breast exams at least 3 times a week. My boss told me that every headache she has is a brain tumor, every sore throat, a tonsillar carcinoma, and every shoulder ache, a highly located metastatic lung lesion. Then I knew I wasn't alone anymore - I was surrounded by people just like me.

Normally, I try not to think like that - it's freaky. Plus I've been reassured many times that my tonsil, the asymmetrical one is nothing (but do you hear the doubt in my voice, even as I type this?). It's hard though, when you read about malignancies all day, not to think that every little thing is one.

Today as I was donating platelets, my count came back, and the woman in charge of the donation center frowned at my chart. "That's high. Her highest" I hear her say, and my stomach drops and my heart leaps into my mouth. I have a high platelet count to begin with, usually in the 420's to 440's, and the upper limit of normal is 400-450 (depending on what hospital you're at, what website you're reading). Usually I'm praised for my high count, but today I saw "the look" on the nurse's face, and it scared me. She looks at me as I am hooked up to the platelet apheresis machine and says "you're counts are high." I look at her and feel myself begin to sweat. "Is that a problem?" I ask. "No" she says haltingly, "but you don't want it much higher than this, 514." For a moment I am relieved, because 514 isn't 700, right? Then the fear takes over "Well, why could it be high?" "Do you have a spleen" "Uh. Yes" "Oh, well I don't know. But just watch it." As she walks away, pretty much the entire staff saw the blood drain away from my face. "Don't worry" one of them said "it's not that high, it's great for us because we collect so much from you, and besides, apheresis is a standard therapy for people with high counts, this is practically therapeutic for you." Reassuring indeed.

Even after I finished up my donation, had my juice and cookies, I was concerned. So I googled "high platelet count" and found a very reassuring British website that basically said a count as high is mine is a low high count and not to worry about it. Though this was indeed reassuring, I wanted more, MORE REASSURANCE. My medical website data quest continued. Then I stumbled across this gem: Drugs that may cause increased platelet levels include estrogen and oral contraceptives.
Wow. Have I been on Yasmin for 2 years? Yes. Could someone have pointed that out and saved me moments of panic, the minutes I just took off my life stressing about my high platelet count? YES. But no one did. Thank God for the internet.

Now if only I could convince someone to remove my tonsil....

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