Wait What? You can’t just remove it?
Well so here it was, christmas of 1996 and I missed a trip to NC to visit family due to my surgeon follow up appointment. I still couldn’t figure out why my parents were so adamant that they come with me and miss the trip. Well pretty soon I would understand. My surgeon was really nice. Dr. Purgett was his name. We sat in there and waited, and when he came in he had the pleasure of removing what was left of my bandage still left in my arm. That was a strange and burny feeling that occurred when he pulled that gross gauze out of there. My under arm still ached and I knew something was still there. He began to tell us what they found. Non hodgkins lymphoma was what I had. Once the word Cancer came out, I was kind of in a haze. I heard “its a good kind of cancer”. It was good it was not breast cancer. I looked at my Dad who had tears in his eyes and was like Whoa, thats not supposed to happen. He started to tell me that I would need to see an Oncologist, and that I would need chemotherapy and radiation. My reply was can’t you just remove it. No, he said that is not how you treat these kind of cancers. I mean what? Im 20, Im in college, Im healthy, why was this happening? The next day was the day before new years eve and I had an appointment with my oncologist at texas oncology. I met my oncologist Dr. Turner the next morning which was again, a huge blur. It was a Three hour appointment of him explaining the cancer, the treatment, the staging. He wanted to do a bone marrow biopsy and I think all the craziness was getting to me b/c I almost passed out. This at least got me something called versed, which is a medicine to make you quite unaware of what is going on even though you are awake. When this was on board I could have cared less that he was drilling something in to the back of my pelvis to get a sample of my bone marrow. I had a pretty sore behind for a couple days but that was no big deal compared to what was coming. I had to get other tests done, a chest xray and then a CT scan. The CT scan was kinda a big deal. I had to get an IV and then drink this nasty stuff called contrast and then barium. I remember the guy saying that when they put the contrast in the IV it would make me feel like I was peeing. Awesome, I thought, and it really did, but I didn’t really pee on myself. The CT scan entails laying still on this table in a cold hospital like room of course while this tube that is like a donut rotates around you to get xrays of you in a slice. It looked at everything on my inside from base of my neck on down to my pelvis. Of course afterward that stuff you drink upsets your stomach so that is fun.
Then I had a trip to austin for new years eve that was already planned, so I tried to go and be a normal human being for that. Truth is I was a total mess, crying a lot, I could hardly even talk on the phone to tell people what was going on. I would just hand the phone over to my mom and let her talk. When I got back from austin I went on a ski trip that was already planned with some friends. I could have stayed home and probably should have but again, wanted to try and forget what was happening. While I was there I got altitude sickness, which sucked, My incision under my arm had opened up and was constantly draining fluid because it wouldn’t heal due to the cancer, so I wore a bandage that had to be changed and my skin was red and everything under there ached. I skiied one day and then of course fell right on to my outstretched arm that had the tumor. That was the end of that. Im sure I was a total drag to all there but oh well. I found out while I was there that all of my tests showed that the cancer had not spread from under my arm, but that the mass under my arm measured 11X7 centimeters, which is kinda big for the space it occupied. I remember that they were all excited but for some reason I just could not get happy about anything around that time. When I returned it was time to start prepping for chemo day. When everyone was returning to school I was prepping for this scary treatment that I found out can also cause cancer. Wait what? yes its true, chemotherapy and radiation, the very things used to treat cancer can also cause cancer. Huh, but at the time this was the only thing that could save my life in this current situation. I did ask questions like why did this happen, did anything that I had done cause it. It just happened and nothing you did caused it was what I was answered with. Ok fair enough I thought and really didn’t think much more about it for a long while.
During this time I had learned of another friend from my highschool had been diagnosed with lymphoma as well, so we chatted a little, but I think both of us didn’t know what to say really and were in total shock. How strange I thought that someone else from my at the time small town had something similar, and then I learned his neighbor did as well.
Now coming back to my earlier post about why my pastor came to the hospital. Apparently the surgeon knew right away that I had some form of cancer based on how the tumor looked but they had decided to wait to tell me until we had a clear diagnosis and plan. My mom was upset and called my pastor to come up there and talk with them and then come see me, so the story that he had bumped in to my parents in the waiting room was fabricated but I let that one slide b/c it was all in a good cause to protect me from the scary unknown, which I do appreciate. What I don’t get is how no one showed their true emotion around me for ten days! pretty impressive! I guess I was pretty naive back then to not ask a lot of questions or even know something crazy was around the corner.
So now its January of 2017, and I feel the need to hurry up and get this chemo in me and kick this tumors booty! Instead of me going back to Austin for school, I planned to stay home with my parents and get my treatment during the spring 97 semester. The school let me take a leave of absence which was awesome. Now was the time to fight for my life!