These crystals are binding fragments of a specific kind of cryoglobulin (protein) that is found in the blood of people who have certain types of cancer, infections, or auto-immune diseases. Although beautiful to behold under the microscope, they are red flags to doctors about underlying conditions such as…
- Lymphoma — cancer of lymph tissue
- Macroglobulinemia — cancer of white blood cells
- Multiple myeloma — cancer of plasma cells in bone marrow
- Leukemia — cancer of white blood cells
- Rheumatoid arthritis — a long-term disease leading to inflammation of joints and surrounding tissues
- Lupus — an autoimmune disorder
- Hepatitis C infection — a viral infection
- Infectious Mononucleosis — a viral infection causing fever, sore throat, swollen lymph glands
- Genetics — some otherwise healthy people have the protein with no known underlying disease.
Imagine my astonishment upon learning two weeks ago that a routine blood test at the rheumatologist’s office showed the presence of cryoglobulin in my blood. The doctor referred me to an oncologist and ordered a follow-up test to determine the type of cryoglobulin.
Immediately I began a crash-course educating myself about cryoglobulin. I found that it means “cold sensitive.” When people have cryoglobulin in their blood and their body temperature drops below 98.6 degrees, the cryoglobulins begin to clump, or form precipitates. When body temperature is raised, the precipitates dissolve back into the blood. I also learned that there are different types of cryoglobulin, and each type is associated with different diseases.
Type I is made up of one type of immunoglobulin and is associated with various cancers. Types II and III are made up of a mixture of different immunoglobulins are are related to auto-immune diseases and infections.
To say that I freaked out would be an understatement. I already knew from my blood test results that I did NOT have Hepatitis or Lupus and that my white blood cell count was normal. I have not been having any fevers or any symptoms of mono. Which left cancer or genetics. I began praying and got my friends and family praying. Then I took a deep breath and went in for another blood test to determine the type of cryoglobulin and was again amazed at the result — this time, there were NO cryoglobulins detected! Praise God!
However, I am still being sent to an oncologist…to be on the safe side. The test for cryoglobulins is extremely specific — the blood sample must be kept at constant body temperature as it is spun down in a centrifuge. I don’t know what one positive test (done without fasting) and one negative test (done with fasting) means, but I will hopefully find out on Monday when I go to an oncologist. My prayer is that there will be some kind of way to rule out all those terrifying diseases and rule-in a laboratory error.
How do I feel about all this?
Confused. Scared. Confident sometimes…and angry at others. Much of my angst has to do with the physician who originally ordered all these test results. One month after the blood test when I had my follow-up visit with him, he did not know the result until he sat right in front of me and read the reports. I could have had nearly a month’s head-start on visiting the oncologist. Then, he referred me to a local oncologist who is NOT accepting new patients and who has recently been sued for malpractice due to two separate patients dying at his clinic of a chemotherapy overdose! When I picked up my medical records today, I found a dictated reference to bilateral x-rays of my ankles…but I never had any ankle x-rays! To say that this doctor is disorganized is an understatement, and I do not plan to visit him again. Ever. Do not be deceived: not all doctors are the same. It is important to take charge of your own health care, ask questions, find your own specialists.
Whatever the outcome, I have been surprised at the veil that has been lifted from my eyes. Suddenly I see how short my time really is here on this earth. I ought not put off doing those things I’ve always wanted to do because there may not BE many more tomorrows. The sky would be falling in on me if I didn’t have the assurance that God loves me and heals me. He causes every thing to be used for his good purposes — and they ARE very good purposes, even if I can’t see them for what they are. Maybe I’m going to be a case study in a miraculous healing. Or perhaps this test is preparing me for another test somewhere down the road — whatever happens, my prayer is that I will draw ever closer to the author and perfecter of my faith. I want to be so close to Jesus that my face shines like the faces of those few who went with him up on the mountain and observed the transfiguration. I desire to have a peace that is not of this world — one that is proof for all to see that a relationship with Christ is not a fabrication. It is not a distortion of Judaism. It is the completion of the story! Because of Christ, death has no sting.
So bring it on. If the sky falls I know the Lord will shield me. If not in this life, then in the next.
To be continued…