Monday, 11 February 2008

The Beginning

So, cancer sucks, as I'm sure you're aware. I just never thought I'd have to deal with it, at least not for a long time.

So, here's the story. Around Christmas (2007), I had a cold and it turned into a sinus infection. Nothing too unusual there, but I noticed that the glands in my neck were up. Again, nothing big, but after a week or so they were still up, so I checked on google, I wondered if they might be involved with draining the sinuses or something. I freaked myself out, as the word cancer kept showing up, during my searches. Ok, that's not so bad, but when I checked the conditions that tended to imply cancer, it was when the lymph nodes were: hard and unmoveable, which mine were.
I went to see my doctor and he had a check. He ummed and arred a bit and said they felt suspicious but not to panic as I had just had an infection and the nodes could be hard to move due to their position, etc. I felt a bit better but still a part of me was nervous. I was given some anti-biotics to deal with the sinus infection and told to pop back in a couple of weeks if the nodes were still not down. My heart rate was also quite high (although I was rather anxious), so my doc arranged a thyroid check, just to make sure.
The sinuses cleared up but no sooner had they got better than I started to get a crazy cough. This was a cough like no other cough I had had. My ribs ached and were bruised and sleeping was difficult. The cough was uncontrollable and at night I could see bright white halos around my vision when I coughed. I checked back into my doctors surgery to get my blood taken for the thyroid check and as my normal doctor was away went to see one of the others about my cough. They checked the lymph nodes, checked my chest and said it was just a virus and not to worry about it. I felt a bit relieved but still not sure. The cough hung on and got worse, sometimes to the point on making me sick through coughing so hard. I went back to see my original doctor to get the blood test results, which were all okay but he wanted to refer me to an ENT specialist to check out the lymph nodes.
I checked my works medical insurance, through good old Axa PPP and got a quick appointment. I turned up and got proded, palpated, x-rayed, x-rayed again, ultra-sounded and then a tissue sample taken. I turned up back in the consultants office and he told me it looked very likely that I had Lymphoma.
This wasn't a complete surprise, as I had got a list in my mind of what the problem could be. It ranged from nothing, to something exotic I had picked up whilst out the country, to a nasty cancer to lymphoma. My hopes were on it being nothing special, but I would take Lymphoma in preference to some of the other nasty options I had dug up. He told me that they had seen a mass in my chest, which was causing the coughing and the nodes in my neck. He said they need to do a CT scan to see if it had spread any further.
Another consultation was lined up, as was a CT scan and a biopsy. From 0 to 100 mph in no seconds flat. I had just crossed over from the land of the healthy to the land of the ill, with little or no warning. The transition is smooth.
I had the CT scan on monday (consulatation was on friday), the biopsy on tuesday and by the following tuesday I was in the consultants office again for the results. He said it was definitely Lymphoma but they didn't yet know if it was Hodgkins or Non Hodgkins and had some more staining and testing to do with the biopsy tissue, but the good news was that they could only find any nasty stuff in the neck and chest.
I was then handed directly over to the consultant hemotolgist who specialised in Lymphoma and we sat down in his office to go through next steps.
Rolling back a bit, I forgot to mention, after that first meeting when I was told Lymphoma was the most likely option, I rang my wife and told her and she was in complete shock. She had been berating me for considering I had Lymphoma or anything else and insisted that I was letting my imagination go wild, but I like to consider all options and then eliminate them, knowing that I'm not going to get a nasty surprise. I guess it worked this time, although it involved me being a pain in the ass for a while doing self diagnosis!
Anyway, back to the story. We were sat in his office and he showed me the CT scan and there was this huge mass (10cm) sat in my chest. My previous consultant had said the chest mass had been "unsubtle", now I know what unsubtle means! They put me on some steroids to relieve the symptoms I was getting. Over the last few days, I had started to get swelling in my face, that won me the nickname "Mr Inflated Head" with my wife and friends. I was also having difficulty sleeping, unless I propped myself up vertically. Otherwise, I'd wake up with a nasty gurgling noise in my throat and chest.
So, I was pleased to get the steroids and I was lined up to have a bone marrow sample taken and then it was chemo time. I was a bit knocked sideways. A few days ago, I was wondering what was going on with some lymph nodes, now I was getting ready for chemo, something that had always scared me stupid.

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