They’re the words no one wants to hear.
“You have a problem with your white blood cell count.”
The setting is somewhat incongruous. I’m not in a medical clinic. It’s an airport lounge.
Ironically, I’m with columnists Jane Caro and Catherine Fox, drinking a glass of wine to celebrate strong women, after speaking on a panel at a leadership lunch in Adelaide.
Feeling weak, I ask the nurse for an appointment with the doctor. All I want to do is go home and hug my children. As we board the plane, I begin to catastrophise.
Clearly, it’s terminal: my uncle died from leukaemia at the age of 14; my grandmother from lymphoma at 35.
I’ve felt like shit for months. This is my destiny.
At home, I check my insurance, plan a funeral and write the eulogy (yes, I am a control freak).
Then, I do what every doctor says you shouldn’t: google the hell out of “low white blood cell count”.
There’s everything, from infections to cancer. Of course, I assume the latter.
Over the next 48 hours, I reassess my life. Why am I addicted to busyness? What is it I’m trying to escape? Have I brought this on myself?
The answer is written all over the doctor’s face.
“Look at these levels,” he says, pointing to the full blood count.
He’s not referring to the white cells, which are apparently “a little lower than usual, but nothing to worry about”.
It’s the FSH, or follicle-stimulating hormone, levels: “You’re post-menopausal,” he says.
I feel like one of those women who doesn’t realise she’s pregnant until the baby pops out.