I was talking on the phone to R today, and she told me about her hometown best friend who has a terrible blood disease. What is it? I asked. I was pretty sure what she would answer. I was right: Polycythemia vera. Oh, I have that, I said. Mine is almost asymptomatic, except that I get pins and needles from taking a shower or bath with water that hotter than warm, and I often have red cheeks. Oh, and I have to get my blood sucked out and disposed of every couple of months. The technical term is therapeutic phlebotomy. Her friend has it bad. Her friend's mother has it worse. She's had small strokes. Her friend had been feeling tired for the past two years and so now when she sees her mother's symptoms she imagines she's seeing her future. PCV isn't usually hereditary but in her case it is.
I felt very lucky and charmed even though I had terrible pins and needles for about 90 minutes after physical therapy one day for my Achilles tendonitis, caused by the rousing of my circulation.
The thing is we are all getting older and we are getting more and more diseases and injuries and conditions. R has had many, many health problems and said she's disconcerted by having so many of her friends cross the line to the illness side.
I found out last week that my friend P had had a month of bad reactions to a dental operation. I don't mind hearing about everyone's bodily status. At least not yet. I don't believe there's such a thing as TMI (too much information).
In grad school my friend D found a letter on the street written by one nun to another. The letter-writer detailed her bowel movements. At least in my circle, we haven't descended to such detail.
But I have to admit that PCV (I think that's the abbreviation used) does worry me. I fell on ice on the sidewalk on Southport Avenue last Wednesday and hurt my elbow. About four hours later, it started bruising. I iced it to not much avail. Then it changed to look like a port-wine stain and G told me it was a hematoma. We're talking huge--from midway between my wrist and elbow to about three inches beyond the elbow. It was also spongy and felt warm to the touch. I started worrying about it around midnight Thursday, that I was getting a blood clot, because that is one of the complications of my disease. I looked all over the internet for bruises and "warm to the touch" and polycythemia vera. I called Illinois Masonic emergency room for advice and the nurse told me they can't give advice because of liability issues. I called Northwestern Memorial Hospital and talked to the triage nurse who said that it sounded OK, that bruises sometimes are warm because of all the blood. The next day I called the physician's assistant for my hemotologist and he called me back promptly, telling me that hematoma is a blood clot, but not the kind that causes trouble, not a deep vein thrombosis, that it was unlikely I'd get a blood clot in my upper extremities. So. I do think about my blood disease.
It's still warm to the touch and still impressive when I roll up my sleeve to gross people out.