When I was battling with bronchitis a few months back, my doctor sent me to get some blood work done. The usual, cholesterol, platelets, etc.
Well, it came back with elevated white count. Not panic-inducingly high white count, but high nonetheless.
So my doctor ordered a re-do, because elevated white count could simply have been a response to the bronchitis I was fighting.
It came back, again, elevated.
By this time, Mrs Doombreed had quizzed WebMD and found out that elevated white blood cell numbers are rarely a good sign.
My doctor referred me to a hematologist - a blood specialist for those who don't savvy the medical lingo.
Today was my appointment.
We arrived at the hospital, located the main desk (by the cunning tactic of walking through the main door and looking straight ahead) and, aided by a directory, found out where the hematologist's office was based.
We turned, and beheld a pair of doors that could only be described as mid- to late-funeral parlour. I'm talking heavy wood, gleaming varnish job, beautifully presented heavy glass insets, tasteful gold details, and, above these portals that were the visual equivalent of a heavy brass bell mournfully tolling out endless peals of grief, was some understated, yet almost sympathetic scroll work picked out in an incredibly restrained hand.
Four or five words. I don't remember which because there was only one word that was hammering for my attention.
One of the nastier options Mrs Doombreed recalled from WebMD was leukemia.
Leukemia. Blood cancer. High white count. Oncology. Did my doctor know - or suspect - something she wasn't telling me?
Then we went inside.
Y'know how you can almost always get an idea of how serious, debilitating or life-threatening a problem a doctor deals with is by just how comfortable their waiting room is?
It's almost like they're saying "It's okay, life has already laid a giant turd on your head, we're going to be extra-specially nice to you while you die".
This place was like the lobby of the better class of hotel. The soft hiss of air in the large fish tank, the wide, airy spaces, the rather expensive widescreen plasma tv on the wall, more incredibly restrained and tasteful gold work, comfortable seats, open reception desk (no privacy window between the impressively sympathetic receptionist and the victim - sorry - patient), soft drinks, coffee, snacks, all laid on free.
By now my heart was in my boots (which were back home, I was wearing my trainers) and Mrs Doombreed was already planning my funeral.
Then the impressively sympathetic receptionist explained that, whilst hematologists don't always deal with cancer, oncologists always need hematologists, so mostly they go hand-in-hand or, in this case, in the same office. Not all hematologists work through oncology centres, but most, apparently, do.
Being sent to a hematologist, she explained, didn't mean I had, nor was at imminent risk of developing, cancer, and if my doctor had sent me there in order to start work on anything cancerous, she would definitely have told me beforehand.
Okay, a relief, but damn, my doctor could have bloody warned me where I was headed.
Oh, the white count thing? Probably normal. I gave some more blood and we're waiting on the result. If it's still elevated, I'm going back in a month to see if maybe higher is just normal for me.