Tag Archives: swollen lymph node

The Funny Thing about Cancer

Sometimes cancer creeps up on you.  Sometimes it pounces.

I got the kind that pounces.  Late last November, I found a swollen lymph node.  In late December, they removed it.  By early January I was in the hospital, beginning the seemingly endless rounds of week-long hospitalized chemotherapy, leaving the hospital only long enough for my blood levels to recover before going back in for more chemo, finally ending with an autologous stem-cell transplant on May 2 — a full Microsoft-style reboot of my immune system, using my own stem cells.

It was a rare and aggressive, double-hit, B-cell lymphoma, and already in Stage IV when they found it.   I was lucky from the very beginning, though.  If I’d had a different, more common, genetic anomaly — they would have foregone the chemo, patted me on the head, and told me to make peace with my maker.  But I didn’t get the peace, thank God.

I got the war.

One of the things I realized quickly was that my most valuable weapon was a sense of humor.   From the first moment I’d heard the diagnosis, I had wanted to run.  Away.  Fast.  But there was nowhere to run.

I named my chemo pole “George,” because he was a royal pain in the ass and my constant companion–he was officious, yappy, insistent, and he kept me on a short leash, beeping obnoxiously anytime there was air in the line, the pump was finished, or his batteries needed charging.  When the pressure from the chemo drugs would start building in my chest, I’d unplug George and walk with him around the atrium, fast, until the pressure eased, but all the while he relentlessly pumped poison into my veins.

Calling the pole “George” meant that he became a person to me, not a machine I could learn to turn off and unhook.   I deliberately did not watch as the nurses fiddled with the buttons and the tubing.  And I talked back to him, returning his officious noises with attitude of my own.  Some of the receptionists on the wards thought I was nuts, walking fast and talking to my pole.  I reassured them that it really was all right — I am nuts.

Being nuts helped in dealing with the doctors, too.  It soon became clear that oncologists really don’t pay any attention to the things that won’t kill you before the cancer does.  “Bumps in the road,” they call them . . . . Continue reading →