Fuerteventura – ground zero
The story of how my CLL journey started – on holiday in the Canary Islands not knowing why my lungs were giving up on me. I let Spanish and Swedish doctors scan, probe and analyse me all they liked, but it took a persistent nurse at my blood bank to finally figure out what was wrong.
I had felt oddly tired for about a week before we left for Fuerteventura in June 2013, but nothing like this. The very first morning of our sporting holiday I could hardly run 500 meters before I had to stop. What was going on? I had never wheezed like this before, and certainly not after only a few minutes of jogging. In the pool a few hours later, I had to stop mid-pool and cling to the ropes until the wheezing stopped.
The German hotel nurse listened and thought she heard water in my lungs. She told me to get a lung x-ray the next day, then come see her at the clinic. She and her German doctor (I don’t know if they were a couple but they should have been – they were both gorgeous) confirmed the lung water and sent me to the Hospital General in Puerto del Rosario for an CT scan and heart echo.
There they kept me overnight but didn’t find anything except that I was also anaemic, so I discharged myself and rejoined my family at the resort. Not that I could do much sporting. Morning sun salutations and some stretching – that was it. I walked like a 90-year-old and had to sit down and catch my breath every few minutes.
Nobody mentioned a blood disorder then, and maybe it wasn’t that. Who knows? I did have the night sweats, though. Back home in Sweden, my house doctor could only run his hand through his hair (he did that a lot) and admit he was stumped. When I went to donate blood, however, the nurses there wouldn’t let it go that easy. They wanted to know what had happened before tapping me again. A visit to an immunologist ruled out malaria, but the same tests found elevated levels of B-cells. Not by much, but the elevation was steady. And everybody with CLL knows what that means.
In the end I was diagnosed with the lesser MBL, monoclonal b-cell leukocytosis, which can be described as a precursor to CLL. Not too bad, but not good either. Well at least it wasn’t outright cancer. Not yet.