Or I should say, I had a cold. In the “life with CLL” category, “new normal” division, file the “common cold.”
What is a common event for most people is always threatening to take an uncommon turn in CLLers. The first symptoms bring a lot of questions to mind: How long will it take to get over it? What if it gets really bad and turns into pneumonia (which, by the way, is the leading cause of death of those with CLL)? Could this possibly be the flu? Will my lymph nodes balloon? Will my lymphocyte count boom?
None of this is paranoia. Any or all of the above can happen. The last time I had a cold, in early 2005, my lymph nodes grew dramatically as the dimwitted B CLL cells went into a reproductive frenzy in an attempt to fight it. My absolute lymphocyte count shot up. After I got over the cold, the nodes reduced to where they had been at the start, as did the count. (This is typical of what can happen to CLLers with infections. Usually the nodes and count reduce to where they had been at the outset, although there is no guarantee of a complete reversal. I must admit that one of my fears as the cold took hold was that it would ruin my so-far good and stable partial remission achieved through R-CVP.)
My first symptom this time was a mild sore throat. I wondered if it would get worse. (Strep throat, anyone?) Then, almost as quickly as it came, it went away. My symptoms turned to a runny nose and sneezing, which later morphed into a cough, which was only occasionally productive. I battled this with Marilyn's tomato-garlic soup, bed rest, zinc lozenges, and augmentin, an antibiotic.
Colds, being caused by a virus, tend to be resistant to antibiotics, but since I wasn’t sure what I was dealing with, throwing the augmentin at it made sense. And the yellow and green, um, expectorations did clear up rather nicely once I started the drug. So it is possible that I had some sort of infection that mimicked a cold. Unlike most colds I have had in the past, this one was not accompanied by a fever or chills. Some CLLers, especially those who are more immunocompromised and in later stages, may not experience common symptoms because the body is unable to mount an immune response. Fortunately, I don’t think I’m at that stage yet.
The good news is that what started on a Tuesday pretty much ended by Saturday morning. And it appears that there was no increase in the size of my lymph nodes. (Unlike two years ago, the neck nodes started out being undetectable thanks to R-CVP, and they remained that way through the cold. Even the abdominal nodes I can palpate did not appear to increase.)
So I am a happy camper, or as happy as I can be with CLL having gone through a cold.
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