By Amy Wang Manning
As I typed one day at work this past spring, my left pinkie suddenly didn’t feel right. A moment later, my left thumb curled under; I couldn’t straighten it except by pulling it with my right hand. Then my entire left hand stiffened into a useless claw. And a tingling sensation was spreading rapidly up my left arm and to my shoulder. I told my boss I needed medical attention. Soon I was in a hospital emergency room, undergoing an MRI.
I didn’t have a stroke that March day. But several weeks later, a hematologist oncologist gave me a diagnosis I’d never heard of: essential thrombocytosis (ET), based on the clot I’d experienced, along with a platelet count of over 1 million and a positive test for the JAK2 mutation. He said I’d probably had ET for as long as 20 years. Suddenly, a lot of health symptoms and setbacks that I’d experienced over that time period made sense.
While I researched essential thrombocytosis online, I stumbled across a call for participants in a pilot study at Arizona State University. The researchers wanted to investigate whether patients with essential thrombocytosis and other myeloproliferative neoplasms could find some relief from symptoms such as pain, fatigue and insomnia by using a mobile app for guided meditation.
While I hadn’t experienced much pain, I’d been having bouts of fatigue and I’d struggled for years with insomnia, which seemed to be worsening. I had practiced yoga and found it helpful in managing my emotional, mental and physical health, so meditation seemed appealing. It certainly couldn’t hurt. And the eight-week study wasn’t asking much of participants: Fill out a few questionnaires, keep a daily sleep log, and wear a Fitbit to track my daily activity. I applied to the study and was accepted. The daily meditation sessions turned out to be very reasonable, just 10 minutes a day.
Now that the study’s finished, I feel calmer and more able to handle whatever comes my way with this disease. I continue to meditate with the app I tested. If nothing else, I am now better equipped to take a deep breath, let go of what I cannot control, and just focus on the moment – this moment, in which I am still here, living.