Oncologist

Oncologist.

It’s a scary word – one you never want to precede with “my.”  Unfortunately, now I do.  I’ve been diagnosed with a form of Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma.  (If you are interested in knowing more about the specifics of this, see the lymphoma page.)

Between Christmas and New Year’s Day I felt an enlarged lymph node on my neck. I went to the doctor the next week and was told it was likely due to an infection. The doctor told me to give it six weeks. A week later, another enlarged lymph node appeared. Back to the doctor’s office. This time, I was prescribed a ten day course of antibiotics. No change.  I decided to give it more time – mostly because I didn’t want the scheduler at my doctor’s office to label my file with “neurotic frequent flyer.”

Mid-March and back to my doctor’s office. He referred me to an ENT.  On April 6, I saw the ENT who did a fine needle biopsy and ordered a swallow test at the hospital for two days later. Just over a week later, I got the results – not positive for cancer, but indicated there might be a possibility.

On April 29 it was back to the hospital for surgery. The lymph node was removed – along with a spot on my tonsils and the bottom of my tongue. (Living the dream here!)  Results were positive for the lymph node – but fortunately benign for the other spots. May 7 off to see another ENT. (Long story.)  Another biopsy – this time of the adenoids. Positive for lymphoma.

Saw my oncologist at the Lacks Cancer Center in Grand Rapids on May 17.  She carefully explained that this type of lymphoma is treatable, but not curable.  It’s important to emphasize the word treatable here.  The goal is to watch the symptoms and then treat to send the cancer back into remission.  Remissions can last for a very long time – indeed, for years.  Currently my symptoms are fairly minimal – so no plans to start treatment yet.

Treatment is likely to involve a targeted type of chemo. I’ve had about 2 gallons of blood removed and a CT scan.  The results of those will determine which chromosome the cancer is attached to and the CT scan will determine the size of the lymph nodes in my neck, abdomen and pelvic area.  Best case scenario, I won’t have to start any treatments in the foreseeable future.

How am I feeling?  People often describe these things as a journey or a rollercoaster ride of emotions. Those don’t seem to work for me. I’m not going on a trip and there are no thrills involved. Honestly, it just sucks. Sometimes I’m angry, or numb, or beyond sad…and other times optimistic.

Friday morning we meet with my oncologist again.  She will share the results of the latest tests and then hopefully I won’t see her again for another 3 months…and then another 3 months….and then….well,  I’m sure you get the picture. I’ll share results soon after.

My British friends have a great phrase: “Keep Calm and Carry On”….and that’s the plan. Indeed, I’m off to the UK on June 4 with a great colleague and 12 wonderful Hope students.

Thanks in advance for your positive thoughts and prayers.