Thursday, January 22, 2015


Blood Donor & Karen 2003, Blowing Rock, NC

I still intend to do all the physical work that I’ve always done until I sense it’s time to grow old gracefully. For instance, I loaned my extension ladder to a friend a few years ago and then simply told him to keep it. I knew the last time I was on the top rung of that ladder climbing onto my second story roof that I shouldn’t be doing that! Last weekend I schlocked eight bags of Colorado river rock from Home Depot into my car and out into my back yard to extend my garden paths. I sensed that I shouldn’t be doing that after I lifted the first bag off a pallet on the floor into an elevated shopping cart. The consequence of that smooth move was a bleeding internal hemorrhoid. Which prompted a visit to my GP and a blood test.

The hemorrhoid was quickly subdued but the blood test revealed a White Blood Cell (WBC) level over the standard limit. I had also tested over the limit about a year earlier, which prompted my doctor to refer me to a hematologist the next day since I was travelling out of the country in the near future. Elevated white blood cells can be a sign that your body is reacting to an infection and instructing your bone marrow to kick up production of the little white fighters. It can be serious. So I lingered in anticipation of the appointment, understanding that facts are much more useful and more realistic than our human imagination. And I needed a resolution in case I needed to call in my trip insurance policy.

Needless to say I was more than a bit anxious, but I reminded myself that I am never alone and God has promised to be with us at all times. And I had the example of my wife Karen who bravely and strongly met her breast cancer head on and never wavered until the end in her determination to fight it with God at her side. I was fortunate to be in a position to ease into retirement at the time, so I was able to be at her other side through the lengthy ordeal. And I admired her tenacity and trust in our Heavenly Father. So I fell back on her example and constantly reminded myself to be “Karen Strong” whenever negative thoughts crept into my head. And it worked as a warm calm equipped me to face whatever fate awaited me at the specialist’s office.

At the designated time, I found the new offices for the medical center and proceeded on the elevator to Suite 300 on the third floor. Much to my chagrin, the door was stenciled with the bold words “Cancer Center”. The Big C hit me square in the face as I walked into the appointment. But I reminded myself to be “Karen Strong” and I calmly checked in with my medical documents to cover most of the expenses. A technician called me in to siphon more blood from my arm for another analysis, once she mercifully hit the uncooperative rolling blood vessel on the third try. She firmly wrapped my arm in a brightly colored strap. Then a PA called me in to ask another litany of questions such as “Have you lost any weight lately”? My knee jerk response was “Sadly, no”. She then asked if I was “scheduled for surgery?” and I responded “Absolutely No”!

The specialist finally called me into an examination room. My expectation was that my GP didn’t have the heart to give me a straight answer, so he scheduled the specialist to give me the bad news. He quickly informed me that my WBC count was well within range and the ratio of their four components was in perfect balance. I was astounded and relieved so we spent the next ten minutes talking sports and the photos of his daughter documenting her graduation from a local university and their walk down the aisle at her wedding. A quick examination revealed no problems and I was excused.

I can be a bit flippant now that the ordeal is over, but it was getting awfully serious there for a while. And the knowledge that my Heavenly Father was at my side and the memory of my wife’s “Karen Strong” courage is the praise that I will now embrace for the indeterminate balance of my life.

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