Thirteen is the number of days that have passed since I was diagnosed with lymphoma. It feels like forever.
On July 31 I went to my doctor for a routine checkup while I was home for a visit. There was a rash and a lump on my left elbow that had been there for a couple weeks. I wasn’t terribly concerned about it, but I figured since I was in that the doctor could have a look at it. Thinking it was probably an infected ingrown hair or something of that sort, he referred me to a surgeon to have it either lanced or biopsied.
Dr. Liang wasn’t really sold on the idea of a biopsy. Initially he thought it was more of a case for a dermatologist, but he agreed to biopsy it at my request. In the OR we discovered that the lump was a swollen lymph node. I didn’t even know that there was a lymph node there, but apparently there is. The doctor said he’d send it off to the lab, and the next morning I drove back to VA.
Thursday morning the 6th of July, at 10:13 AM, I received a phone call from my doctor. My initial thought was, “Crap, I’m late for work.” It’s sort of funny, looking back at it. If I had been properly awake, his hesitation would’ve tipped me off that something big was up. As it was, the realization didn’t strike me until the second time that he said “lymphoma.” He actually never used the word “cancer” while describing the situation to me. I’m not entirely sure why, he knows full well that I know that lymphoma is cancer.
The next few days were a whirlwind. Friday my mom and Uncle Bill came down to VA to pick me up, insisting that I was in no emotional state to be driving. To be perfectly honest, I think I’m handling it a touch better than she is. Saturday they drove me back. Sunday was spent visiting extended family, who mostly already knew through my mom. I don’t know how I would’ve taken it if I had to tell each of them. I honestly hate having people worry about me. That’s the hardest part of this whole thing, for me. There are so many people that want to help, but to me it’s just a series of doctor visits to beat a nasty bug.
Monday morning was a full-body CAT scan. To start with, they had me drink a 2 liter barium milkshake, which tastes about like chalk-and-berry flavored runny yogurt. I insisted that the only way to salvage that heinous beverage would be 6 ounces of vodka, but the nurse wouldn’t hear anything of it. During the scan they also give an IV radiopaque dye which causes a full-body flush and the sensation that you’re going to wet yourself. Fun! The scan came up negative in all areas, which is pretty much awesome. That means that it hasn’t started spreading to my internal lymph nodes.
Tuesday afternoon I visited with Dr. Rubins, the oncologist. My mom and my aunt were along. It makes them feel better to be there. A nurse did the preliminary check of my lymph nodes with me up on the exam table, and asked me to stay up there while we waited so the doctor could do his exam as soon as he came in. While laying on the exam table, I had a stroke of genius. “Mom, when the doctor comes in, pretend to be crying. I’ll lay here on the table with my eyes closed. Titi, you say ‘It progressed really quickly,’ and look down.” Well, it was a great plan, but when he came in we were all laughing about it and we never got to do it. All he could say was “We don’t know much about it, it’s a very unusual case.” That’s bad, since it’s harder to predict how best to treat it, but there’s a bright side: I could end up with a cancer named after me!
Wednesday was the most painful of my various tests thus far. Dr. Rubins took a bone marrow sample, which I mentioned earlier. The procedure was done under local anesthetic only, which is certainly not enough. He made a small incision in the back of my pelvis and stuck a needle in, drawing out what looked like blood. I can only describe the feeling as the physical embodiment of the pain of lost love. My essence is drawn out, leaving a painful empty feeling inside that it seems a thousand lifetimes couldn’t heal. Oh god, now I sound emo. Anyways, it felt mostly better after about half an hour. The bone marrow sample will tell us whether there is any systemic involvement. The tests that they’ve finished so far have come back negative, but the final results don’t come back until Friday at the earliest.
Yeah, I am kinda scared. I’m not really worrying about it too much. There’s nothing I can do about it right now. I’m spending my days telling people, “I have cancer, lol!” and sorta enjoying the reactions I get. I’m more than a touch frustrated about having my life disrupted, missing work, being away from friends, and that whole jazz, but I’m pretty much stuck right now so I can’t dwell on it. If anyone wants to come visit, drop me a line. I like people, and I could stand to have some around.