Sunday, November 11, 2007

medical tests of my first cancer

My last journal entry ended with the discovery that I had a malignant lymph node.  Now I'd like to share with you the testing which determined the extent of my first cancer's growth.

I wish I could say that when I learned I had cancer I instantly vowed to fight the disease with all my strength and will.  But it didn't happen that way.  Instead I started sleeping almost around the clock; I probably wanted to escape from life for a while.  Krissy would call me several times a day to see how I was, and to urge me to see an oncologist about the cancer, but I kept on sleeping.  Finally Krissy and a friend of mine made an oncology appointment for me, got me out of bed, and pretty much dragged me to see the doctor.

Dr. W. gave me a thorough examination which was painless.  He had studied the pathology report on my malignant lymph node, so he knew what he was looking for.  He told me that I had a lymphoma, and explained in general terms what that meant, but without committing himself to a detailed explanation.  I suppose he wanted more information first.  He then scheduled me for five things:  blood tests, a biopsy of the lump on my neck, a CAT scan, a bone marrow biopsy, and another appointment with him to hear the results of all the tests. 

The blood work was a piece of cake.  I had had blood tests before and wasn't at all concerned about being stuck in the arm.  The needle barely hurt, and after drawing blood for two minutes or less, I was done.

Before doing the biopsy of the lump on my neck, the pathologist asked me two questions; he was hoping to find out why I had developed a lymphoma.  He asked me if I had ever been a coal miner, or if I had ever worked in a uranium plant.  My answer to both his questions was "No."  He explained that he had asked because links had been found between lymphoma and a prolonged exposure to carbon, and exposure to radiation.  Aside from those two, no one knew what caused lymphoma, at least at that time.

I was a bit apprehensive about the neck biopsy itself.  I had the impression that the pathologist would cut out the whole lymph node which caused the lump, but my fears were unnecessary.  He pushed a rather thick needle into the lump to extract a sample.  The pain was worse than a flu or tetanus shot and lasted considerably longer, but I was relieved to find it bearable.  I'd actually been worried about that biopsy.  After all I've been through with two cancers, it's embarrassing to look back on myself in 1998 and realize what a novice I had been.

The preparation for the CAT scans of my abdomen, pelvis, underarms, and neck started with no food or liquid after 12:00 AM the night before.  My scan was at 8:30 AM, but before the scan I had to drink two quarts of barium in a short time.  I could have easily believed that I was drinking Sherwin-Williams house paint.  The radiology technician told me that drinking it cold with strawberry-banana flavoring made it taste better.  "Better" must have been a relative term.  Drinking large quantities of cold paint for breakfast on an empty stomach put me in immediate danger of throwing up and possibly ruining the CAT scan.  Somehow I kept it all down, but just barely.  The scan itself was an anticlimax, except for the dye they injected into my veins.  This caused me to have an intense sensation of heat everywhere, as if my body temperature had jumped to 120 degrees.  But now that I think of it, most of you have probably had CAT scans already, so I don't need to go into too much detail.

Dr. W. saved the bad test for last.

This story is getting too long for one journal entry, so I'll continue it tomorrow.


  1. It's good that you are writing all this down, as it may help someone else who is just finding out they have cancer.  There are no more frightening words than the Big C.  Take care and thanks for sharing.  'On ya'- ma

  2. I've had to have an MRI of my head a couple times and they give you an injection of the contrast about halfway thru. They positioned me on the table, told me not to move...then they did the initial films.  Then the table came out of the tube and they injected me with the made me feel sick to my stomach and I had to sit up...of course that just ruined the first part of the test but "oh well."  They finished it & I went on home.  The second time I had one, I told the tech about the first time & she said "they just put the stuff in too quickly."  So she did it real slow and it didn't bother me.  But then another time I had to have a CT scan of my abdomen and the contrast they gave me for that made me feel like I was going to wet my pants....I'm glad they warned me of the sensation ahead of time. I think the worst was, years a go when I had a myleogram...they injected dye into my spinal cord and then xrayed it, looking for  and ruptured disk.  I thought I was going to die when they did that one.  None of those tests are fun!  And I hope I don't ever have to have anymore. You too...NO MORE BAD TESTS FOR JOHN !!! Linda in Washington state  

  3. I'm glad you had people around you who loved you to push you when you needed it.  ;o)  -  Barbara

  4. ((((((((((((((((((HUGSTOYOU)))))))))))))))))That sounds so scary.Just know,you are in my prayers.

  5. Hi
    I thought the ct scans were the worst--there was nothing worse than drinking barium.
    I was convinced that the shots they gave you must have been what it felt like for a vampire to get burnt by the sun.
    Everytime I get a shot of dye for anything I end up puking.

    Barium is nothing compated to irradiated eggs--you can't touch them without wearing gloves because they are sooo toxic.  I asked the tech the 3rd time I had to have it done--Am I going to have glow worms instead of babies?

    Sometimes I think the tests are worse than the treatment or the illness because we don't know what to expect and get ourselves worked up into a tizzy.

  6. John this is bringing a lot of things to mind, I really don't know how you went through it all.  I guess it was your determination and your faith in the Lord.


  7. John I' just glad that Krissy and her friend got you into seeing the oncologist, so you were able to get treatment to help you dear.  Arlene (AJ)

  8. What a scary situation....I hope that I never have to go through it...but if I do that God would give me the strength to do so....June

  9. I've done the barium swallow tests before.  I can NEVER drink all of that barium.  Yes, it is like house paint, isn't it?  It always comes up.  Sorry.  Love you, John!! xox

  10.     I've had barium some years back. I don't remember exactly what it tasted like, only that it was gross and yucky, and slimey. I think it was slimey. Point is, I had the same reaction you did. Barely kept it down.