THE DISCLAIMER

I apologize for the self-centered nature of this web site. That's what cancer does to you or at least it did to me. I'm presenting this information to possibly help anyone else who will be going through this treatment. I'm not a medical person and my opinions and observations should never be taken too seriously. Follow your doctors' advice and, hopefully, we'll both have happy results.

MY BAD DAY

Have you ever had a really bad day?For me and my family it was Memorial Day, 2008, my granddaughter Sarahís third birthday.Actually, now that I think about it Iíve had worse days: One was when my wife Janet was admitted to a hospital with a pulmonary embolism and another was when my grandson, Buddy, was air lifted to the University of Kentucky hospital after a car wreck.But those days had happy endings, Janet and the Budster are fine now so Iím talking about my newest bad day.On Memorial Day I found myself in the emergency room of Central Baptist Hospital in Lexington, Kentucky.The ER doc was explaining that he didnít know if I really had a heart attack or maybe my symptoms were from the cantaloupe sized tumor they had just discovered in my chest (BigC).Wow, when I checked into the ER my greatest fear was that the docs and nurses would have a jovial group laugh at my expense and send me home with a couple of Tums;stupid me.Anyway, they admitted me for more tests.First they decided to check out the growth (BigC) because if it was an aggressive, nasty tumor then I might not be around long enough for the heart to matter.

THE FIRST BIOPSY

I wouldnít want to spend a lot of Sunday afternoons getting CT directed biopsies, but it wasnít horrible.I had a great nurse and doctor.BTW doctors, if you explain everything as itís happening itís a lot easier on us poor ignorant saps who donít have a clue about what comes next.Dr. Ford explained everything - he was great.My nurseís name was Tammy and she was wonderful too.The biopsy procedure was a bit uncomfortable but not terribly painful.††† The results were bittersweet; I had a lymphoma in my chest, probably Hodgkinís but the results were inconclusive.Hodgkinís is usually curable.The docís decided I might be worth saving and they had determined that I really did have a mild heart attack so they scheduled a heart catheterization the following day.The plan was to put stints in where they were needed.

It was great to have Janet, my wife of 45 years , and our four adult children, Robin, Brad, Amy and Matt there to share this first bit of hopeful news.The whole ordeal has been so hard on them and I worry, especially for Janet.Iíve got the easy role here.After the biopsy everyone relaxed a little; a heart cath isnít so bad.

THE HEART CATH

The heart catheterization was a piece of cake but the results werenít great.I needed a quadruple bypass ASAP.Iíve never smoked and I had no family history so where did that come from?What a roller coaster ride this has been for my family.Their emotions went from elation to despair at the drop of a hat.

THE BYPASS SURGERY

The quadruple bypass surgery was scheduled and another wonderful nurse, Kim, explained the whole process to me.She gave me one piece of advice that Iíll pass on because it proved to be very helpful for me.She told me not to panic when I woke up from the bypass surgery.Simple enough?Not so simple.When I woke up I was paralyzed, my hands were tied, I was on a respirator and didnít feel like I was breathing.I could hear and understand everything that was being said but I couldnít open my eyes or move a muscle.It would be very easy to panic and I could tell that the nurses were trying to calm down other people in recovery.I just concentrated on what Kim said and I didnít panic.

HOW TO AVOID WORRYING ABOUT BYPASS SURGERY

If you are about to have bypass surgery I can tell you how to avoid worrying about it; have a cantaloupe sized cancer in your chest.BigC took my mind off of the bypass and here I am seven weeks after surgery and essentially totally recovered.I barely remember the heart problem because Janet and I obsess about BigC.

THE BigC

It seems common for cancer patients to name their tumor(s).I donít really know why.Maybe if weíre friends with it then itíll be nicer to us?Maybe itís a way to make it seem mortal so we can kill the sucker.For whatever reason, I named mine BigC (pronounced big c).I havenít decided if the C is for cancer or cantaloupe.Anyway, BigC took a thrashing during the bypass surgery.Dr. Mitchell, my heart surgeon and hero, said he couldnít even see my heart because of the tumor so he carved out about 80% of BigC and sent the excised chunk to pathology.We held our breath.The news was good; it was Hodgkinís Lymphoma.Isnít it funny how your standards can be so flexible?A few weeks ago I would have been horrified at the thought of any cancer; now I feel lucky because I have one thatís treatable.

THE STAGING

Staging is the process of determining how far the cancer has spread. Stage I is the best and stage IV is the worst. To stage my Hodgkin's I received a PET scan (walk in the park) and a bone marrow biopsy. Several well meaning people told me how painful the bone marrow biopsy would be and then I could see them choke on their words as they realized what they had said. It seems almost universal that people think the bone marrow biopsy is painful so I'm going to tell you about it. I was a bit nervous going into it. Again, I had a great nurse and doctor but unfortunately I've forgotten their names. The nurse asked me to hold her hand through the procedure but I was afraid I'd break her fingers so I chose to grip the bed rail. It reminded me of the old cowboy movies where they bit a bullet to overcome some horrible pain. The doc numbed up my butt and started in with the biggest needle I've ever seen. I hardly felt anything until she reached the bone. Then I could feel her boring through the bone with the needle. It was icky but I really didn't feel pain. When she was ready to break into the bone marrow they told me to brace myself. It hurt a little, but nothing like I expected. On a scale of 1 to 10, I'd give it a 6 because it only lasted a few seconds. I hope I don't have any more bone marrow biopsies but if I do I won't dread it as much the next time. My first oncologist told me BigC is a stage IIA nodular sclerosing Hodgkinís lymphoma, the most common type of Hodgkinís.My family INSISTED that I get a second opinion so I went to the Markey Cancer Center at the University of Kentucky to see what they had to say about my little situation.Dr. Hayslip, my newest hero, diagnosed BigC as a stage IA Hodgkinís.I went from IIA to IA, 50% cured with just one needle stick!I decided to go with Dr. Hayslip and the Markey Cancer Center!Actually, Markey has a great reputation and I really liked Dr. Hayslip and both of my arms were about broken from the twisting from Amy and Robin, and Janet supplied a few tears, so I decided to switch docs. I'm now very pleased with our decision.

That pretty much brings you up to date.Iím waiting for next week (7/25/2008) when Iíll get my first infusion of poison.My treatment will be four months of ABVD chemo (one treatment every two weeks) followed by radiation.I can hardly wait.

posted 7/15/2008