On June 7th, 2008 Cassie and I were in the shower and she pointed at my shoulder: “what the hell is that”. I had a painless bulge on the right side of the base of my neck. A quick trip to the local walk-in clinic received a brusque diagnosis of “lymphoma” from an insensitive, barely human doctor. I asked him, “This is serious?”. He just said “yes” and turned back to his desk.
The rest of the weekend was very terrible for both of us as we tried to get used to the fact that I was very ill.
June 9: We went to my regular doctor’s office as soon they opened and said that we would wait for any opening. The receptionist tried to put us off until an appointment tomorrow but Cass went feral and the receptionist backed down. My doctor saw me in 20 minutes and was absolutely wonderful. She suggested that it might be a lipoma but it had to be fully investigated. She ordered blood tests and a chest x-ray as well as an ultrasound.
June 11: I went for the ultrasound. The technician took some views of the lump and then went over to my left side and took some views through my abdomen, which I knew meant that something was wrong. He was taking a look at my spleen and liver to look for abnormalities. I knew that he couldn’t tell me what he thought, that was for the doctor to say… but I could tell that it wasn’t looking good. An hour later my doctor called and said she had called for the results, that the lump was a grossly enlarged lymph node and that this most likely meant lymphoma of some sort. She was very kind to me and assured me that even so, the prognosis was good. She assured me that 2 years from now she and I would be meeting in her office to discuss my remission and that that had been a lousy two years for me.
June 16: I have my CT scan at Victoria General Hospital with markers and vasodilators from the bottom of my jaw to my pelvis. I know that the results of this scan will indicate what stage the lymphoma has progressed through and find everything the lymphoma has compromised.
June 17: Cass is coming to all my appointments with me… I am so grateful. It’s the only thing that keeps my anxiety under control. We meet the head and neck surgeon. A partner of his is a friend of ours from the yacht club. He happens to be in the waiting room when we walk in. It’s good to see a familiar face and tell our story. The surgeon we see is wonderful. He shows us the CT scan results which are fascinating and disturbing at the same time. The good news is that I have no apparent lymph node or organ involvement below my diaphragm. Cass and I know this means I am probably no further along than stage II lymphoma. The bad news is that one of the huge nodes is flattening my superior vena cava. The surgeon takes a look up my nose into my sinuses, down my throat and in my ears. He said he was looking for any bulging or pulsing relating to blood pooling in my head. He asked if I had any headaches or difficulty swallowing… I didn’t. Never-the-less, he told me to go home, not to drink or eat anything, and to expect a call for the biopsy operation. He was going to do it that evening. (!)
June 17 (later): I’m prepped for surgery. While I’m there Joe from my work shows up and takes Cassie for dinner… for which I’m grateful. When I come out Greg’s there too… all welcome familiar faces… and by the time I’m in the lobby on my way out… Sigrun as well. Thanks folks… I needed that.
June 18 – 23: The longest week of my life.
June 24: Back to the wonderful surgeon’s office to get my stitches removed. He has my biopsy results(!!!). I have the Nodular Sclerosis variety of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. He tells me that this is the most common form of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma with a good prognosis for survival. He refers me to the BC Cancer agency for treatment.
June 25: I have an appointment at the BC Cancer agency to meet an oncologist on Friday morning which is June 27, 2008. In two and a half weeks, I have gone from an apparently well man to a patient with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. My old life… the one where cancer was not a part of it, is over. I’m thankful for the support of my long suffering and wonderful wife for getting me through this first, anxiety ridden part of what I know is going to be a long and winding road.
“Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”
Sir Winston Churchill, Speech in November 1942
“For myself I am an optimist – it does not seem to be much use being anything else.”
Sir Winston Churchill, speech at the Lord Mayor’s banquet, London, November 9, 1954
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