Yesterday I had looked at whether I should have noticed any cancer specific symptoms sooner. Looking back, I came to the conclusion that it was probably unlikely I would have. At the end of that post I left off with getting the results of a CT scan. In this post I will continue my story with the CT scan and also look at some of the new symptoms I was suddenly experiencing.
Looking at my online chart, I see it was actually August 17 when I got my CT scan done. That day began with an appointment with my general physican. I began by noting my breathing had gotten really bad. I could no longer walk a normal pace without running out of a breath. I had to walk very slowly anywhere I went or risk losing breath. I also mentioned the last couple of days I had the chills in the evening and I had itching all over my body for a short period each evening. I thought this was some new symptom of outdoor allergies. It was county fair week and I had spent a lot of time at the fair grounds. Later on I found out these are possible symptoms for the type of cancer I have. These new symptoms didn’t seem to overly concern the doctor, but the next new symptom did.
It was then I let the doctor know I found this lump on my neck. I actually mentioned it an almost matter of fact manner. It really hadn’t worried me, because I thought it was from a bug that had bitten me at a baseball game a few weeks earlier. My doctor however thought it was worth looking into immediately. He immediately inspected my neck, underarms and other parts of my chest. He was looking for other lumps; which he did find signs of at least one or two others just below the surface. After that inspection he sent me over to have a CT scan done. The doctor told me he would call me after he got the results, which would likely be early the next week (this was on a Friday).
The CT scan itself was very uneventful. The only snag was that the CT tech wanted to get a good picture of both my neck and chest. This meant holding my hands above my head at the beginning of the scan, then I would have a few seconds to move them down to my sides. As a tall guy this was somewhat difficult, but I did it.
That weekend I experienced a new symptom: fatigue. Fatigue is a word I thought I understood before. I was wrong. Luckily it only seemed to last a couple of days, basically the weekend. I don’t know if it was some sort of cancer related fatigue or if I had become depressed or what; but luckily it was only bad for a couple of days. A lesser form of fatigue seemed to stick around for another week or so, but it was much more manageable.
On Monday afternoon I received a call from doctor. He said he wanted me to come in and discuss the results of my CT scan. I knew right then there was something serious found. Doctors don’t generally call you in to discuss good news. After speaking with him I logged into my online chart and saw the notes about my CT scan. Most of what was there i couldn’t understand. But there were some items I did understand. Below I will list a few things copied out of my notes that struck me as important:
Enlarged prominent cervical lymph nodes. These are concerning for a process such as lymphoma or metastasis. Tissue biopsy is recommended of one of the enlarged nodes for further characterization.
Enlarged mediastinal nodes including cardiophrenic lymph nodes and bilateral axillary lymph nodes, which may be related to etiologies such as lymphoma or metastasis.
Partly visualized mild splenomegaly with multiple low-attenuation lesions within the spleen. This is also concerning for etiologies such as lymphoma or metastasis though other etiologies are not excluded. Consider PET/CT for better characterization.
There was a lot more, but these were the items that seemed to point towards me having cancer, specifically lymphoma. There was also mentioned in the notes about my windpipe, but it was worded in pure doctor speak, so I wasn’t sure what that meant.
I struggled that evening if I should tell my wife about what I saw. Or if I should let her hear it from the doctor the next morning (she was going to the appointment with me). I did let her know. We just kinda sat there and said we will deal with whatever comes up. The last year had already thrown a few hurdles at us. At the forefront of these hurdles was our youngest son having some sort of muscle disorder which was still being diagnosed and my wife having her heart attack this spring. I’m glad I told her right away, even though she did become annoyed with me when I admitted I almost didn’t tell her. In the end we both have to stay completely honest to get through this together.
The next day at the doctors appointment we were given the news. The doctor went through the CT notes with us. He let us know there were “several” large lymph nodes visible in my neck and chest. There were also signs of something going on in my lungs, spleen and liver. He also said it appears a lymph node was pushing against my windpipe, and likely a large reason I had been having breathing problems. I of course was not diagnosed yet at this point. It looks like I had cancer, but he was not prepared to say that yet at this point. And even if I did have cancer it wasn’t known if it had started in my lymph nodes or in another organ. Either way though it appears it had spread.
That morning I also had some blood drawn for a variety of blood work tests. He let me know nothing appeared to be out of the normal. Of particular interest to remember for later in my journey: my white blood cell counts were normal. There was no sign of my body trying to fight anything! At the end of the meeting the doctor let me know he had already been working with a surgeon and I would get a call in the next day for a biopsy on Thursday (which was two days away).
This post looked at just a few days time. In that time I had experienced new symptoms, notably fatigue and the chills. I also had learned at the end of that time that I likely had some sort of cancer and that it was possibly spread throughout my neck and chest. In my next post I will look at what happened during and after the biopsy.