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Three Weeks To A Diagnosis

I didn’t want to blog about this until everything was for sure for sure. But then, my blog is my outlet and I want to update all my friends with this news, so what the hey. If you’re reading, you’re on this this roller coaster with me. So if things change, they change.

As most of you know, I have been in the hospital for exactly three weeks now. I came in with a blood clot, which turned out to be caused by a large mass in my chest, and I haven’t been able to leave since (minus that one road trip to an out of town hospital).

From the beginning, all the doctors knew it was lymphoma. I’m not a doctor, so I can’t tell you how they knew this. But I suspect the CT scan was in line with how cancerous lymph nodes are expected to grow in the chest.

It was my family doctor who told me and my parents the news that night three weeks ago. The same one who treated me as a baby. He sat next to me and touched the centre of my chest, “The scan showed a large mass in your chest.”

I was immediately transported to another world. When people hear “cancer” they automatically think “death.” But that’s not where my mind went in that moment. I just knew that my current life as I knew it was over. I was now living the life of someone else.

My family doctor described lymphoma as two types – Hodgkins and non-Hodgkins. The former being the very treatable kind with an almost 98% survival rate (a term I hate, “success rate” is better). The other kind, well, we’d come to that hurdle when and if we needed to. It gave me a glimmer of hope. Something to hold on to in an otherwise new, unknown, bizarro universe.

I had a needle biopsy on my chest the following day. A biopsy by the way is not just a long needle. It’s more like jabbing, sometimes a little drilling, and very unnerving to see go into the caverns of your body. Days later I found out that it didn’t result in enough “good” cells to make a proper diagnosis of lymphoma type. It was still yet to be determined if I had the good cancer, or the not-so-good cancer.

The next course of action was to put a scope into the base of my throat and grab larger chunks of the tumour in my chest. A more invasive procedure that required anaesthesia and a longer recovery time. I anxiously awaited diagnosis for a few more days. Further tests showed by stomach, pelvis, brain, heart, and bone marrow were all clear. Happy days! But then I was once again told they didn’t get enough good cells to make a diagnosis. Very unhappy day.

For the third try, the doctors decided to go in and get a cancerous lymph node in my right armpit. This was the final attempt before doing the unthinkable – going into my chest and grabbing a piece of the tumour where it’s most active – around the main vein that goes into my heart.

The lymph node surgery was last Friday. They removed just one lymph node the size of a large marble. Or rather, a bouncy ball (that reference is for my co-workers). Everyone said it had to result in a diagnosis. No way a lymph node that size wouldn’t. I thought they were being falsely positive at this point. Call it a faulty personality trait, but I never try to set myself up for disappointment.

To make a long story longer, I got my diagnosis. Three long weeks of wondering if it’s that treatable kind or scarier kind my doctor talked about on that first night.

The pathologist still has to sign off on the report, and I still don’t know what kind of chemo I’m getting, but I still have to share this news. It’s Hodgkins. 

That means I can start chemo in the next couple of days and start actively working towards getting rid of this disease. I will share the information on chemo once I know it. Unfortunately this does not mean I am getting out of the hospital right away. In fact, I could be here for a few more weeks. But I won’t get into that right now.

Really, I just want to say thank you for your prayers, your good vibes, well wishes, emails, gifts, and spirit dances. I feel like this is the one hurdle of many, and I just cleared it. Now it’s time to keep running forward and I’ll keep flying over those hurdles as they come.

Me, wearing mascara for the first time since being admitted to the hospital. The smallest sense of normalcy.