I have cancer.
I said it–I have cancer.
Blessedly, it’s a type of lymphoma which is the easiest cancer to treat but I have one that I don’t really fit the profile for AT ALL.
Diffused Large B-cell Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (DLBCL) which is apparently more commonly seen in White and Asian males who are 60 years and older.
I asked mom if there was something she didn’t tell me. lol.
Anyway, I’m kind of glad this happened…it makes me re-evaluate things–which I started doing already but now its double time. I feel like I appreciate EVERYTHING more and I feel good, ya know? This has been a good weekend after a very overwhelming and emotional 2 weeks.
It all started about a year ago, maybe April 2015. My back was really hurting, but I was taking TKD (Tae Kwon Do) and figured I just pulled a muscle or something. So, I didn’t think anything of it. I would take time off, the pain would go away, and then I’d go back to class. The pain may or may not come back so it wasn’t a big deal to me. But then in Dec it got really bad. Like, I couldn’t shift my hips to take off my shoes and it hurt to walk and stuff.
I finally decided to get it checked out, but by the time I had my appt, my back didn’t hurt anymore. I went to my appt anyway and described my symptoms. Doc said it sounded like sciatica and I shrug, like “alrighty”. Not the end of the world. So it was life as usual. Since the back pain was gone, I didn’t go to my follow-up appt.
But then a couple weeks later, in the beginning of January, my left leg started to feel numb. As days went on, the numbness got worse. It turned into a burning, thawing out type of pain that was affecting me at night, mostly. It made sleep damn-near impossible because I was in too much pain to get comfortable.
The numbness started to spread to my groin area. I couldn’t feel it when I went to the bathroom. The burning was there. The numbness was there. I poked and prodded, but couldn’t feel anything. By the third week, the numbness had spread to my right leg. I decided that I had waited long enough when it was getting to the point that I was growing delirious from lack of sleep.
When I called the doc, I made it clear that I needed to be seen that day. I saw a different doc (Dr. Shah)–I really liked her. After describing my symptoms, she was concerned and told me I needed a MRI right away.
This was a Friday. Friday, Jan 22, to be exact.
She ordered a wet read so that she could get results faster. We were both hoping it was a herniated disc.
Dr. Shah called me the next morning and said that the MRI showed a mass in my spine (pinching nerves) and one in my hip. Clearly, it wasn’t a herniated disc.
She said I would need a contrast MRI, which is stronger and I’d need a biopsy to determine whether it was an infection or cancer.
This whole thing escalated too quickly for my 26-year-old self.
Dr. Shah wanted me to be admitted to the hospital, so that all my tests and stuff could be done a little bit faster. I told her I needed to talk to my parents, as I would need help with my little one.
At the end of the day, we decided the hospital was the best way to go.
She called back and my parents were able to ask her any and all questions. She said there would be a bed ready for me Monday morning at 8, but if the pain was getting too much, to go sooner.
I sucked it up for the rest of that day, but the pain was getting almost unbearable. And then, of course, I start doing what all people do and tried self-diagnosing. The only thing that seemed to fit my symptoms, especially with the numbness in the groin, was cauda equina. That said surgery was immediately necessary because if left untreated, it could lead to paralysis.
That shit freaked me out.
That, coupled with my increasing pain, made me rush to the ER around 1AM–bags and everything in tow (since I was told I would be there for a few days).
I made sure I told everyone what I thought it was. Obviously, that wasn’t my diagnosis.
At one point, the pain had been so bad that I started hyperventilating. I fell to the floor, hysterical. The nurses were telling me to “breathe” and “get off the floor”. I felt like I was having contractions in my legs. I can say that, next to real baby-having contractions, this was the second most painful thing in my life.
My pain tolerance was so high, though, that nothing they were giving me was working. Eventually, I think the excitement of it all made me pass out. When I woke up, I was moved into another room. Hooke up to pain meds and an IV. I was scheduled to have my contrast MRI a few hours later. I had to fast. I couldn’t even have water.
Needless to say, the whole being admitted thing didn’t make ANYTHING move faster. I was extremely uncomfortable and felt like no one was communicating with me…or with each other. No one could tell me what time shit was happening, what was happening, or how I could ask the people who may know.
Eventually, I had the MRI–definitely not an infection. Let’s pray for lymphoma.
Biopsy got done…but the oncologist thought it was some rare type of cancer because the sample didn’t fit lymphoma.
At this point, we’re getting prayers from all over and everyone who knows anyone that deals with cancer was coming through. We all agreed that I was going to Sloane or Columbia, because cancer is what they specialize in.
Before all that, though, the neurosurgeon suggested removing the mass from my spine immediately. The longer I waited, the worse it was going to get. He didn’t want it to get to the point where I would be in diapers for the rest of my life.
He admitted that there was a possibility that I may not regain the feeling that I’d lost, but you never know.
So here comes surgery day (Jan 27)–a complete success! Immediately, I could tell some of the feeling was back.
The next day was hard for me. I broke down. I felt like I was being kicked out of the hospital and no one wanted to help me anymore. Clearly, a new, more-serious situation arose and since they took care of what I was originally there for, they were done with me.
This whole thing escalated quickly.
It was too much for me.
I had a sign before the biopsy. My friend and colleague came to visit with a couple of magazines and some candy. I’m flipping through one mag, laughing at something she said and not really looking at it. I looked down at the page and the title of the article was “How Cancer Changed My Life” (or something like that). I smiled, like “OK”.