blood cancer diagnosis

Here’s how it happens—

On a warm summer day a stranger came out of nowhere, knocked on their door, and immediately transformed their lives into a clash of two worlds. The stranger’s name was blood cancer, full of chaos, evil, and the inhumane–versus love, compassion, hope, and faith.

Imagine a world without blood cancer

I know, this is not the in vogue article to write, and most people will not pay much attention to it, as they feel it really does not concern them. But what if life happens, and things change. Reading this article could mean the difference between life or death, and perhaps keep you or a loved one from suffering Annie’s traumatic journey through blood cancer, and my long and deep grief over her loss. It’s nearing the fifth anniversary of Annie’s death, and “Lest We Forget.” My senses are once again on high alert as they always are this time of the year.

After Annie died I went on a relentless crusade to save the world, one person at a time from blood cancer. It’s a horrible disease! Almost five years later, not only am I going strong, I’m getting stronger in my effort to educate others. It needs to be stopped! I don’t know where, when, or who, but I believe through the lives Annie has touched from the grave through me, someone has been saved.

Again, I know, this is not what you want to hear, or perhaps even care about. Neither did I nor my beloved wife Annie. What you don’t know, can, and will hurt you. On the other hand, education can set you free.

In the United States, according to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society the grim fact is, that one person every three minutes will be diagnosed with a blood cancer and one person every ten minutes will die of a blood cancer.

The bad news is, it will come at you like a stranger in the night, knock on your door, and change your life forever. You might not even see it coming or know it was there. But over time, you will! It will rock your world.

The good news is, many of the blood cancers are treatable and many curable if caught in the early stages. And that is not always easy as there is no pre-screening for blood cancer.

Know Your Body

My wife Annie, despite seeing numerous specialists and doctors for over a year was not diagnosed, nor sent to the hematology/oncology center to have her blood studied until it was way too late.

So the idea behind this post was to–maybe save a life. Annie never had a chance, but you do.

If you’re overtired, anemic, have unstable blood counts for no apparent reason, suffer from bone pain, and a few other things, read this list below. It’s lays out some of the same and some different symptoms of some of the more common blood cancers.

So what I want to say to you is this…If you have any of these guideline symptoms, and they don’t go away over a short period of time, and your doctor has no answers for you, don’t walk to the cancer center, run!

You may not have a blood cancer as, there are other blood disorders that mimic blood cancer. But, that’s where the big guns hang out–the hematologist/oncologist at the cancer center will do a study of your blood and give you the definitive answer on the status of your blood. In other words, what’s wrong with it. And that can lead to early detection and in turn becomes priceless!

Multiple Myeloma

This is the disease that took Annie’s life. Unfortunately it is not considered curable, but it’s treatable, with many years of remission in many cases. Secret is, once again, catch it early.
Signs and symptoms of multiple myeloma can vary and, early in the disease, there may be none.

When signs and symptoms do occur, they can include:

• Anemia
• Bone pain, especially in your spine or chest (breast plate)
• Nausea
• Constipation
• Loss of appetite
• Mental fogginess or confusion
• Fatigue
• Frequent infections
• Weight loss
• Weakness or numbness in your legs
• Excessive thirstiness

Annie’s symptoms were anemia, bone pain in her legs and spine, fatigue, and she generally felt unwell for a little over a year before diagnosis.

This guideline may be confusing to many of you, but if you’re suffering chronically form anything on the list, find out why. Annie and I should have been aggressively seeking a diagnosis over how she was feeling, but, nobody wants to talk about the cancer center, in fact we avoid it at all costs. In our minds, and apparently the mind of her general practitioner, and the minds of the specialists she saw, she couldn’t have cancer. What a dirty little word, “cancer.” Well let me tell you something, if you don’t want to talk about it, don’t. But be prepared, because the consequences could be devastating.


Since there are a wide variety of types of leukemia, symptoms can vary greatly; however, many common symptoms of leukemia include fever, chronic fatigue, frequent and severe infections, unexplained weight loss, swollen lymph nodes, enlarged liver or spleen, bleeding or bruising, petechiae (red spots on the skin), excessive night sweats and pain or tenderness in the bones, as stated by Mayo Clinic.

Since many of these symptoms indicate other, more minor illnesses, such as the flu, it is easy to overlook the possibility of leukemia. Essentially, if any of these symptoms are persistent and worry patients, then they should seek professional medical attention to test for possibilities of leukemia.

Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma

Symptoms may include:
• Painless, swollen lymph nodes in your neck, armpits or groin
• Abdominal pain or swelling
• Chest pain, coughing or trouble breathing
• Fatigue
• Fever
• Night sweats
• Weight loss

lymphoma symptomsLymphoma Symptoms

(Different from Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma)

Many times, the first sign of lymphoma is a painless swelling in the neck, under an arm, or in the groin area.

• An enlarged lymph node sometimes causes other symptoms by pressing against a vein or lymphatic vessel (swelling of an arm or leg), a nerve (pain, numbness, or tingling), or the stomach (early feeling of fullness).

• Lymph nodes or tissues elsewhere in the body may also swell. The spleen, for example, may become enlarged in lymphoma.

Most people have no other symptoms. However, additional symptoms may include:
• Fevers
• Chills
• Unexplained weight loss
• Night sweats
• Lack of energy
• Itching (up to 25% of patients develop this itch, most commonly in the lower extremity but it can occur anywhere, be local, or spreading over the whole body)

These symptoms are nonspecific. This means that they could be caused by any number of conditions unrelated to cancer. For instance, they could be signs of the flu or other viral infection, but in those cases, they would not last very long. In lymphoma, the symptoms persist over time and cannot be explained by an infection or another disease.

Childhood cancer

What I didn’t mention was childhood cancer. It’s stated that one out of three childhood cancers in children and young adults will be leukemia. Children and adolescents are also susceptible to lymphoma and Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. If you have kids or grand kids, it might be a good idea to do some research on these diseases. Children are very resilient and respond well to treatment, so pay attention to “their little bodies.” Nine out of ten children survive leukemia, which is quite a contrast from twenty to twenty-five years ago when only one out of ten survived.

In closing

Closing this article out, I’d like to encourage you to not take your health for granted…It’s not worth it. Annie was a very fit, youthful person, great diet and exercise, which is what helped create the problem of getting her to the cancer center. Somehow in all our minds, she did not fit the profile. Yes, it was a huge and devastating mistake, but she must not have died in vain. And you know what, I never got angry at the doctors until two years or so into my grief, which was simply a part of the grief process. During her thirty month battle, every time I looked at her I was internalizing anger, I hated cancer so much, and when it was over, as her loving caregiver husband, there was no more fight or hate left in me. It was time for survival mode…Can I get through this grief! Please don’t be that person, you don’t necessarily have to be. Pay attention to your body—It will tell you things that your general practitioner might not be able too. Be proactive and go to a hematologist. Don’t ever put your fate in the hands of another, when you can do more. As the oncologist said to me when he first saw her, “Ann’s fate has already be sealed.”

If you want to visit or pay Annie a tribute, you can go to her online memorial. Almost 70,000 others have. Over 80 pictures of her with stories. A healing place to go.

Or read her e-book on–Because of Annie–All proceeds go to cancer.

Research on symptoms only, of the diseases was from the Mayo Clinic.

Hear the whole story in Bob’s book, Because of Annie. All proceeds are donated to cancer charities.

Written by Bob Harrison
Bob Harrison was raised in the heart of the Redwoods in the far northwest comer of northern California. The little town of Crescent City, California was located near some of the world’s tallest trees, with the west shoreline being the Pacific Ocean. Bob spent most of his time fishing the two local rivers where some of the finest Steelhead and Salmon fishing is located. He was also well known up and down the north coast as an avid motorcycle racer, winning several hundred trophies, and one Oregon State title. Bob graduated from Del Norte High School with the class of 1966, then spent a one year stint at the College of the Redwoods, before having a strong sense of patriotism and joining the United States Air Force. After three years of service, Bob met Annie, the love of his life, and they got married in England in 1972. Bob’s love of country pushed him on to what turned out to be a very successful career, retiring in 1991. Bob’s last military assignment was Wichita, Kansas, a place he and Annie decided to call home. Together they developed and ran two very successful antique businesses until the stranger knocked on their door and changed their lives forever; “Because of Annie.”

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