NUMBERS: The Waiting Game

Anyone who has suffered from cancer, plus a few other diseases, are familiar with the waiting game for the numbers from tests. In these cases, one digit, one way or the other, could mean that you are living or dying. It could mean if your cancer is growing out of control or going into remission.

I’ve heard patients say that the numbers don’t meany anything to them because God is in control. Yet, I see the worry in their eye. Yes, God can be in control, but the numbers tell us the reality. No one has ever died with good numbers or the reverse. As a medical provider, the numbers carry more meaning, which is both a blessing and a curse.

While I’ve waited for numbers many times over the past few months, numbers that tell me how my kidneys are doing and numbers that tell me how my cancer is doing, the major number I am waiting on today is about my kidneys.

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I am finishing up my second week off of dialysis and I’ve been feeling great. My numbers, on Monday, were very promising, suggesting I was done with dialysis forever. Then Wednesday, I had a sudden rise in potassium. Potassium is one measurement of kidney function that can kill you quickly, so, even if all the other numbers are good and this one is bad, I will go back on the machine. I cannot express how depressing that would be. Dialysis makes me feel horrible for days, and then it is time to do it again. It means I can’t travel. It would mean that my chances of beating cancer are far more guarded.

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In two hours I will have my blood drawn again. I’ve done everything I can do to reduce my blood potassium. It will take about two hours for me to see the results. If it is bad, the machine stands waiting and the news would be devastating. Being back on the machine would mean that I have to go forward to fight cancer with one hand tied behind my back. It would mean that I would have to go back to feeling terrible all the time. But the numbers will tell and waiting for them is nothing short of tortuous.

Published by J. Michael Jones

J. Michael Jones is married to Denise and is the father of five successful adult children, scattered around Washington state and Minnesota. He had a 38-year career as a physician associate, until he was forced into retirement by multiple myeloma in 2019. During his career, he waw a headache specialist at Mayo Clinic, and in the pacific northwest, and worked as a generalist in a variety of locations overseas, including Abu Dhabi, Oman, Cyprus, Egypt, Pakistan twice, Nepal, and Afghanistan's Khyber Pass. He has always loved to think and write, publishing seven books and countless journal articles. After retirement he has focused on his fiction writing including his coming book, The Stones of Yemen.

3 thoughts on “NUMBERS: The Waiting Game

  1. If only there was more others could do..but we cannot do a thing but wait with you . Hope this small gesture of caring and praying with you helps you feel just a little less alone. Praying for your miracle..praying that damn machine can get kicked to the curb. In hope we wait with you.


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