“Bob, you have an astoundingly high white blood count.” As Dr. Abraham stands beside Bob’s bed in the emergency room, his words feel as if they will pierce the soft tissues of my heart. They are short, pointed, but backed with caring the size of an elephant.
Astoundingly high white count. I scan my mind for medical information about high white counts, but Bob has no temperature, and he has no obvious signs of infection. What the hell is going on here? My thoughts flash from one possible cause to another, eliminating each faster than the last until it slows and focuses on one: leukemia. I place my hands on the simple, plastic chair and sit down carefully, quietly, saying nothing. I reach for my husband’s hand, just to feel his skin, to experience the strength of his gentle grip, but my abdominal muscles tighten like a fighter waiting for the next blow.
Surely, there would have been clues.
The frequent naps. Bob cherished those naps as a benefit of retirement, of not having to keep schedules, a gentle rebuffing of all the organizations he used to run that controlled his time for so many years. The low platelet count. The steady but thimble-sized change in his platelet count was not low enough to concern his physicians, but a trend I noticed reading Bob’s recent lab reports. Do platelets drop with leukemia? I can’t quite make sense of all the pieces, and that plagues me. I know too much, but not enough.
It is 1:00 AM. I must leave him in the hospital for the night. I pull my aging Lexus into the garage. And then it hits. He’s not at home. He’s not with me in the car, and I start to cry. I cry so hard I can’t see the dashboard. I cry so hard I am sure my heart is cracking, maybe my vocal cords ripping. I cry because I somehow know what is coming, and I would give anything that we not go down this path. But if he does, I must.
© 2012 Jeanette Reese