Why facing fears is important with cold agglutinin disease

Helping her pet confront a scary situation helped this CAD patient, too

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by Mary Lott |

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Poor, pitiful Pokey. On the night of April 22, my dog had a traumatic experience. The evening started well enough. Pokey was guarding me from under the bed as I caught up on current events. My husband had gone off to the store, and the boys were outside on the porch, ostensibly doing their homework.

Suddenly, a noise began. It was hard to pinpoint what it was, but it sounded similar to a puppy yipping in pain. The noise wasn’t coming from the right direction, though; it sounded very, very close. I wondered, “Could it be something caught within our walls?”

Pokey was concerned, too. He scrabbled out from under the bed and was looking around. He focused on our wardrobe but gave it a wide berth. He sensed danger, and he was having none of it!

There was no way on God’s green earth that he was going to remain in such a dangerous place. Pokey high-tailed it out of the bedroom and was headed toward the outdoors, until he realized that the sound was actually coming from outside. He chose to remain indoors in a safe corner. He did not return to the bedroom.

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CAD can be scary, too

I have found my reaction to cold agglutinin disease (CAD) is sometimes like Pokey’s reaction to the noise. Something happens that I don’t understand and I cautiously circle around it before mentally skedaddling. If I ignore a problem, my logic goes, it isn’t really there.

CAD is a weird unknown to many people. There are a lot of symptoms, and other diseases are often suspected first. In Pokey’s case, we thought the odd noise might be something sinister in the room. With my CAD, doctors first thought it was a problem with my lungs. Both Pokey and the doctors were wrong.

CAD symptoms occur when red blood cells (RBCs) are exposed to low temperatures, triggering a chain of events that results in the RBCs clumping together and being destroyed. Fewer RBCs means less oxygen is carried to various organs throughout the body. In my case, it often manifests through tightness in my chest, a cough, and general weakness and malaise.

When Pokey was confronted by a potentially scary situation, he responded with avoidance. “If I’m not near it, it can’t hurt me,” assuredly was his thought.

I’m tempted to avoid asking “unimportant” questions because I’m not sure I want to deal with the answers. Questions that I don’t want to ask include an inquiry about a sore spot on my nose. I want to assume it’s CAD slowing the healing, which is more palatable to me than possible skin cancer.

Another scary situation might be my assumption that all of my chest tightness is a symptom of hemolysis. That seems to be the most likely scenario, but at some point, it ought to be faced, investigated, and diagnosed.

Facing our fears together

Last night, as the yipping noise continued, I went outside to check it out. It turns out that one of the boys, for unknown preteen reasons, was making that sound. No danger. All was right in the world.

I returned to my room and called Pokey. Nothing. He knew better. By now, he would approach the bedroom again, but he wasn’t setting paw through the doorway.

I sat on the floor and petted him. As long as he was outside the door, he was fine. But when I pulled him in just the tiniest bit, the trembling and terror began. I petted him, then let him go.

Later, I forced him to confront the “danger.” I tempted him with treats only receivable if he entered the room. Together, he and I looked through the places in the bedroom. I opened the wardrobe door as I petted him and held him close. I fed him more treats and he finally consented to stay.

I act a lot like Pokey. However, I usually find that when I investigate my fears, it’s something that can be easily answered. The other night, all I had to do was tell my boy that he was scaring the dog. The sound quit. Pokey adjusted.

All the time I am learning new things about cold agglutinin disease. I am adjusting, too.

Note: Cold Agglutinin Disease News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Cold Agglutinin Disease News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to cold agglutinin disease.


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