I was sitting on the examination table in a pale pink, thin cotton gown when my doctor told me that he wanted to send me to a specialist. It was because my white blood cell counts had been increasingly high over the last few check-ups. I didn’t question him. I didn’t panic. I just followed his instructions. I was 23 years old having just graduated college less than a year before. I had a good job, a loving family and a great group of friends. I didn’t have a care in the world.
After I had a few days to think about it, I started to wonder if my high white counts might have anything to do with me feeling tired lately or the weird bruises appearing on my legs for no real reason. Then I did what no sane person should do – I googled my symptoms. There it was…leukemia. By the time I had my appointment with the hematologist, I was convinced that I had cancer. I told the hematologist my concerns and self-diagnosis. He assured me that, based on how I felt, I did not have leukemia and that he would see me again in a few weeks for a follow-up. I left his office feeling comforted and assuming that whatever was going on with my body was only temporary. This feeling continued even when the hematologist called me about week before my scheduled appointment asking if I could come in for some more tests.
When I arrived at the hematologist’s office, I was lead past the exam rooms into the doctor’s office. I was confused – how were they going to run tests on me if we’re sitting in his office. As he shuffled through his papers, I looked around his office and took in his various degrees. One word caught my eye – oncology. I had heard this word before, but forgot what it meant. My doctor cleared his throat and said, “Dominique you have Chronic Myleogenous Leukemia.” I just looked at him, not understanding any of the words that he just said. Seeing my confusion, the doctor started scribbling drawings on a piece of paper explaining how my pieces of my DNA had mutated to make something called a Philadelphia Chromosome. He met my eyes and still saw confusion. He told me, “Wait, let me go get you a pamphlet on this.” “Oh shit! They have a pamphlet.” It was at this very moment that I realized life wouldn’t be the same for me.
It was seven years ago today that I found out that I had cancer. It was the day that I became a fighter and a survivor. I celebrate today because I am reminded how lucky I am to be here. Happy cancerversary to me!