It was such a wild ride since once all the testing was done as I was diagnosed and had to start chemotherapy right away I didn’t even get a chance to update the blog. Now that everything is over and the dust had settled, I’m going to write down my journey. Some people might not want to think about it but I’d like to use my experience as a motivator.
Testing for Cancer Sub-Type
Based on the biopsy by the ENT specialist, it was pretty certain that I have Lymphoma. However, they are uncertain of the sub-type. In order to fully diagnose my case and to determine which chemotherapy I need, they need to actually take a sample of the cells from the tumor. I was also told that I need to do a bunch of other tests: CT, MRI, PET, a bone marrow biopsy and a biopsy my neck to get a cancer cell sample. A lot of people asked how I felt during this time and honestly, I don’t remember. This period of time was such a blur. Getting information on what the test is about. Scheduling everything into my calendar. Trying to keep calm and continue with work. Everything seems to just revolve around trying to figure out this thing that’s growing on the side of my neck and I have no control over what’s happening. I remember trying to focus on the positives: after all these testing, the oncologist would be able to find a treatment for me and I’d be OK.
Bone Marrow Biopsy
CT, MRI and PET scans were not that scary. With CT I had to drink a bottle of some questionable fluids. It tasted disgusting but at least I didn’t have to get a needle. I was getting so many needles in my arms, for blood tests and IV, that some of my veins collapsed.
Between the two biopsies, the one for bone marrow is probably the least painful and traumatizing of the two. Before the start of the biopsy, I was told that I will get a needle stuck into my lower back where they’d extract some bone marrow. They’d do local anesthesia so I shouldn’t feel anything. It’d only take about 15 minutes and it’s a really quick and standard biopsy. That doesn’t sound so bad right? I was feeling nervous going in but Al came with me so I was confident that everything will be alright.
Wrong! When the doctor and nurse came in, he asked Al if he’s OK with staying and that some people might feel sick seeing the biopsy being done. This made me worry because what is going on back there? I can’t see what they are doing to my back at all but why’d people get sick seeing a needle extracting some bone marrow (which looks like blood)?! After they numbed my hip/lower back, I was told that they’d be putting a needle in but I shouldn’t feel anything. OK, poke away! The doctor was giving me a play by play of what he’s doing to my back. Like how it’d feel when he extracts the bone marrow – you can actually feel the bone marrow (liquid) travel up your lower spine. It’s a weird feeling but not painful. It only took him about a minute or two to get the bone marrow out.
Next, he explained, we will need to extract some bone samples. BONE SAMPLES?! What a minute! No one told me about this. He said this is a simple step. I’d just feel like someone’s shaking me for a little bit then it’d be over. Al told me later that while the doctor was explaining this part to me and getting ready to extract some bone samples, the needle, which he describe is actually a rod that’s quite thick, was sticking out my lower back. At this point, he had to turn away because that it was grossing him out. So we proceeded with the bone extraction, which made me felt sick to my stomach. There is no pain but you felt like someone is rocking and twisting a big rod deep into your back. It felt really invasive. I’m not sure how to describe the exact feeling but I felt sick. Tears started flowing down my face even though I did not feel any pain.
And we’re done. I was given a giant band-aid on the side of my hip/lower back and was told I can go home. It took me another 15 minutes to clear away my tears, get dressed and have the courage to walk out of the room looking like nothing is wrong. I thought to myself at the time that this would probably be the worst that could happen but I was so wrong. The next biopsy was even more traumatizing.
Here’s my post-biopsy meal which I cooked the night before.