My mother Trish Rankin is embarking upon a journey into the unknown, and we want to rally here to support her as she takes one step at a time into the mystery. The journey began Wednesday night, when Mom noticed that her heart rate was higher than usual- something that had been happening periodically over a period of weeks. She had some swelling in her legs and a little shortness of breath. She texted me, and I was with Rachel Naomi Remen, MD for her 79th birthday, in a circle of twenty doctors, including David Guillion, a hematologist-oncologist who just retired. We were jokingly calling him an "offcologist." I don't like to make medical decisions about my own family, and Mom was asking me whether I thought she needed to go to the ER late at night, or could it wait until morning. I ran Mom's email by David, and he said it sounded like it could wait until morning, so Thursday morning she went to urgent care, where a blood count revealed that she had a hemoglobin of 8.3 (it should be 13-14) and an elevated WBC count of 13.7. It was a macrocytic anemia (if you're bleeding from somewhere, it's usually microcytic). They worked her up and it didn't look like she was bleeding anywhere. They did an EKG and scanned her legs to make sure there were no clots. She didn't have a fever or any other evidence of infection. All seemed to be mostly well except for an anemia of unknown origin. So they thought perhaps she had a B12 or folate deficiency. Such was the suspicion Thursday morning when she was discharged from urgent care.
Friday morning, however, the doctor called me. B12 and folate were normal, and the differential on her blood count had come in showing some abnormal distribution of cells in her blood, most notably 34% monocytes and 2% myelocytes, which suggest an abnormal proliferation of cells in the bone marrow. The next step is a bone marrow biopsy, which is scheduled for Monday at 10am.
I don't like to spend too much time in "what if" land when we're on a journey into the unknown. But the mind, by its adorable nature, doesn't like not knowing. So it likes things like "differential diagnosis," almost as if it wants to prepare or control or take charge. What could it be? Well, it could a bone marrow cancer, like CMML (chronic myelomonocytic leukemia.) It could also be a rare kind of infection, like tuberculosis. It could also be a lab error, for all we know! I've heard many stories already from people who were misdiagnosed with a bone marrow cancer when it turned out to be something rare and easily treatable, so no need to worry prematurely. We won't know for sure until the bone marrow biopsy gets sent away for special stains, so it might take a bit to get the results back.
The good news is that I have the best doctors and sacred medicine healers on the planet on speed dial in my phone, and they are all rallying to help out. David Guillion is now retired but he referred us to the young integrative hematologist/oncologist who took over for him, and Rachel Remen has a whole other list we can refer to if that's not a good fit on the initial visit. Mom also has an appointment with Trevor Hart, my dear friend and healer in New Hampshire, who is a world class spiritual healer. We'll be going at this from all angles in a very holistic way, filled with prayer and trust.
We ask you to join us as we surrender this whole thing to Divine Will, knowing in our humility that Divine Will is a mystery, and we don't know the journey Mom's soul has chosen for her to learn, grow, crack open, and deepen her love affair with God. We are open to whatever that journey asks of us, though our human selves would certainly prefer for this not to be cancer. We trust though. We don't need to try to control this. We can pray simply, "Let us pray for that which is most right." Then turn over the whole burden to God and trust that we will be shown how to navigate this journey and we will be given the strength to endure whatever we face next. Let us all endeavor to have peace in our hearts, even if we feel afraid of the unknown.
We know from the scientific data that whatever might ail the body, the body is naturally equipped with self-healing mechanisms, but those self-healing mechanisms ONLY function when the nervous system is relaxed- in the relaxation response, rather than the "fight or flight" stress response. So the best thing we can do is help Mom keep her nervous system in relaxation response. She knows how to do this, so please hold that intention with her and don't project any fear you might feel onto her, which will only trip her stress response wires! Let's use this site to hold a space for deep trust in a benevolent universe, a space where we can enter into the mystery in good company, with love and peace in our hearts, even as we might feel scared of the unknown.
I know my mother welcomes your prayers, your letters of support, and your deep care. She will be reading this website, so please respond to her if you feel inclined to do so.