I made Jessie read about blood on the Internet the other night.
Not the Twilight/vampire/movie kind of blood, but the kind that courses through our bodies sustaining life. To get her ready for her appointment with the hematologist yesterday. It’s her second appointment. The first was in the fall 2009, after at least 4 different sets of blood work that showed her white blood cell (WBC) count way below the low-normal range at which she usually clocks in.
I had already done lots of Internet research, and found much of it confusing. I had avoided talking to people about bone marrow tests, because the only people I knew who had had them had died. I didn’t really want to go there. But I considered the fact that Jessie really didn’t get sick very often, wasn’t tired, didn’t have night sweats (a sign of something, but I’m not sure what), hadn’t lost weight, and nobody seemed to be in a rush to get in and figure out what was going on. This was a good sign, surely?
However, the blood work from the fall still showed low WBC levels, and so I needed to prepare her for the fact that the doctor might say something about doing more tests. I didn’t want her to freak out in the doctor’s office, but I also didn’t want her worrying about it too much before hand. So I left it to the last minute.
“Why do I have to read this?” whines Jessie.
Her usual Internet reading material covers only pop stars and quizzes such as Which Cheetah Girl Are You? “Because you need to know how blood works so you can understand what the doctor says and ask any questions you might have.” I say, not very convincingly.
I pare it down a bit for her. “Okay, you only have to read about what blood is made up of and how it’s made.” I am guiding her gently towards understanding that her WBC is low. And that she might need tests that involve her bone marrow. “But I don’t WANT a bone marrow test!” she wails. This is where parenting gets hard. Because neither do I! I stop to check her understanding (something we learned to do a long time ago). She thinks a bone marrow test would mean cutting her open and digging out part of her bone! “No, no!” I say. “That would freak me out too!” Now for the little white lie. “A bone marrow test is just another needle.” I capitalize on the fact that she is now an old hand (and proud of it!) at needles and blood work. I can see the relief on her face and hope that she doesn’t read the concern on mine. She sleeps well that night, even if Dan and I don’t.
We go to the clinic in the morning. The doctor fits us all into the small office and shows us the blood work results from last week. While her WBC count hadn’t skyrocketed, it had shot up to within the low-normal range, as had her neutrophils.
“It’s not leukemia!” he exclaims.
Stunned silence from all three of us as we, each of us, look at him terrorized. We didn’t know that leukemia was an option!
He looks at us confused. He’s just delivered the good news, why aren’t we reacting ecstatically? I try to give him what he wants, authority pleaser that I am (NOT!) “Okay. That’s great! So what does this mean?” “Well,” he says. “We’d only be worried if the levels kept going down or stayed down. They vary, so it probably means that that’s just her normal. We can follow her, if you want. That would just mean blood tests every six months….” Jessie grins. “I’m really good at that!” she says proudly. “And a follow up in a year,” he says. Okay. Sounds good. We exit. All slightly stunned by what could have happened but didn’t.
Jessie stops by the elevator and looks at me accusingly. “But you didn’t TELL me that it was leukemia!”
“It’s not!” I can say with relief, willing to take the brunt of her accusation and whatever fall out ensues. Because its NOT!
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