I was an investment broker for 14 years, and although it required long hours and hard work, I was in the best physical and mental state of my life. I had no family history of medical issues and no personal medical conditions. I balanced a demanding work schedule with a very healthy and active lifestyle.
The first change to this lifestyle came when I developed a skin infection. No big deal, the infection cleared up pretty quickly. But then the infection showed up again somewhere else on my body. The symptoms recurred a few times over the next few weeks, and it felt like my body just wouldn’t heal. I grew more and more fatigued – I was accustomed to working 12, 14, even 16-hour days with energy to spare, but I was so tired I started falling asleep early, even when working shorter days.
I began to develop flu-like symptoms – frequent chills, coughing and headaches. Professional acquaintances suggested I see a doctor; however, I was resistant to seeking medical attention until I was certain my immune system was unable to fight the issue on its own. As the symptoms became more pronounced (e.g. greater degrees of exhaustion, reoccurring infections, etc.) over the next 10 days, I finally went to the emergency room. I did not have a primary care physician and had not seen a doctor in more than 20 years.
Blood tests done in the emergency room revealed that I had leukemia. The emergency room doctor initially told me that I had a different and incorrect subtype of leukemia and that no treatment was available. This information delayed the correct diagnosis and treatment by approximately three days. I sought a second opinion at a different medical facility, where the correct leukemia subtype was discovered. My treatment plan included aggressive regimens of chemotherapy, total body radiation and a double stem cell transplant.
My advice to anyone reading my story is always persevere and never give up. If you notice health changes lasting two weeks or more, seek medical attention. Be involved in your healthcare—get second opinions from medical professionals, ask many questions, take notes and have a medical advocate. Difficult circumstances are a natural function of life, but the most successful of people have overcome the most challenging adversity.
- skin infections
- flu-like symptoms