Just dx'd w/ chronic lymphocytic leukemia, supposed to start LPN prgrm in the fall

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    Like many others here, I am faced with new challenges and tons of questions. I am a 44 year old nursing student who is supposed to start the LPN program this fall, then LPN to RN next spring. In December I was dx'd with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia.

    My diagnosis has, of course, rocked my world. My hematologist has informed me that at this time I am not immune compromised at all. However, in the future I will be. He encouraged me to continue on my career path. CLL can be a really indolent disease, some people not needing treatment for up to 10 years.

    I would appreciate advice. Is a new nurse required to work in a hospital setting prior to moving into other areas of nursing? People with CLL are at high risk of respiratory infections. My oncologist believes that these are mostly opportunistic once the immune system is compromised, but I have read conflicting thoughts on this.

    I know, ultimately, the decision is mine. And I am left sitting here, wondering if the last 2 years of pre-req's have been for nothing. If I am going to owe student loans and have nothing to show for it...If leukemia is going to keep me from doing what I love.

    I have been a CNA, have worked in LTC and in Home Health in that capacity. I LOVE patient interaction. I truly feel a passion for nursing and health care. I want to do this. But I don't want to be stupid about it and put myself at unnecessary risk.

    Thank you so much
    DJ
  2. 4 Comments so far...

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    First, I want to say that I am so sorry about your diagnosis. That is a tough pill to swallow.
    I think you should go ahead with your plans. Your doc is going to keep a close eye on your counts, right? You will know when you are neutropenic, and you can take steps to protect yourself when/if that happens. Also, once you graduate LPN school you could try to find a position outside of a high risk area- you could do OBGYN, for example. Or home health. If you really want to be a nurse, you should pursue it. Your experience with CLL will help make you a fantastic, empathetic caregiver.
    KaroSnowQueen likes this.
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    Thank you cayenne

    And yes, my oncologist is going to be watching me closely. I am more worried about the stress of nursing school and the nursing profession in general. I am learning in pathophysiology how stress can change the course of many diseases, especially ones involving the immune system. I know that nursing school is stressful, I'm just not sure how stressful!

    I would love home health, or working in a cardiologists office. There are options. I wonder though if I should work towards a BSN instead of ASN. So many questions!

    Thank you for your kind reply.

    DJ
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    I have CLL. I know it's a shock to be told you have leukemia, that it's not curable, and they don't intend to do anything about it right away!

    The watch and wait phase can indeed last a long time. If your immune system is currently strong and you have no other indicators of aggressive disease, then go on with your life. I was in W&W for almost 6 years during which I worked as a substitute teacher in elementary schools. My immune system worked fine and it seemed like I got sick less often than most people. Currently, I am in 6 months of treatment, necessitated by an enlarged spleen. Prior to treatment, my immune system was still working fine, but treatment has really battered it. I am not currently teaching, but others CLLers continue to work during treatment. Keep in mind that people with CLL often have long remissions (5+ years) between rounds of treatment. Starting treatment is not the end of your life.

    I suggest you check into some excellent online resources:
    CLLSLL : CLL and SLL
    clltopics.org
    updates.clltopics.org
    All of these resources have excellent information both personal and clinical. As a nursing student, you will probably appreciate the high level of interest among the discussion participants in being active advocates in our own care.

    Best wishes for a long wait!
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    DJ:

    For some reason the first resource I listed didn't post correctly. It's a Yahoo discussion group for people with CLL and SLL.

    It's:
    health.groups.yahoo.com/group/CLLSLL/

    I hope that posts correctly this time.


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