Sunday, April 15, 2007

My cancer timeline

I realize that some of you may not know the history behind my recent cancer news so this entry is just to provide you with a general time line.

Back in January or February I noticed that I had some shortness of breath and wheezing when I exercised, but since I had my yearly asthmatic bronchitis back in October and then a nasty cold in January, I didn't think much of it other than my cold was coming back. My symptoms started getting a little worse, but I didn't sit up and take notice until about seven weeks ago when I was at the rock climbing gym trying to scale a relatively easy wall that I had climbed before. I had to stop about two feet up because I couldn't breathe and my heart was pounding pretty rapidly. I managed to make it to the top anyway, but it was a slow and difficult climb. Later that night, I had dinner with my parents and mentioned it to my mom and she suggested I see a doctor. I made an appointment for the next morning and my doctor referred me to Dr. Collins, a cardiologist, because she was concerned about some noise from my heart murmur.

It took me a couple of weeks to make the appointment with Dr. Collins and she took an EKG and said my heart looked fine, however she ordered me to come back for a stress test and an echocardiogram just in case. Another two weeks went by before I could schedule those appointments and last Wednesday, April 4th I went for the tests. A different cardiologist in the office that day reviewed my initial results and said everything looked great for my heart, but the echocardiogram was a little hard to read since my heart was pushed a little to the side, but he said that was normal for someone thin like me.

Little did I know that my life would change the very next day. Dr. Collins called me at work and said they found a "mass" pressing up against my heart and sent me to the nearest hospital for an emergency CT scan. She was very concerned that I go immediately. I raced to Mike's office and we went to Fairfax Hospital in Virginia where I work. The emergency CT scan revealed that I had a large "fist-sized" tumor pressing up against my heart and I was admitted to the hospital. On Friday, April 6th they took a biopsy of the mass and several hours later they confirmed that it is lymphoma and then they did a bone marrow biopsy to make sure it was not in my bone marrow.

The "good" news in all of this bad news is that it is a b-cell lymphoma, which is the best kind of lymphoma to get and it is highly treatable with chemotherapy. Because of where the lymphoma is, they can't operate so they have to shrink it through chemo, which I started on Friday. It's called a large diffuse b-cell lymphoma if you want to google it or also called PML lymphoma.

Today was another good round of chemo. I didn't sleep as well last night because the prednisone is such a high dose that it keeps me a little hopped up (and gives me a very good appetite). I asked for some Ambian to help me (and Mike) sleep tonight since my tossing and turning kept both of us awake last night. I go back to NIH tomorrow to replace my chemo bag and then my last day on this cycle is on Tuesday. Tuesday is the day they remove my IJ line and stop chemo until the next cycle in 17 days. I am excited not to be wearing a relatively heavy chemo bag around my waste for a few days, but I'm not looking forward to the potential drop in my white blood cells in about 7-10 days from my last day of chemo. This is the time when I have the potential to be neutropenic, which means I'll be more susceptible to illnesses so I have to be very careful and wash my hands a lot and possibly wear a mask or ask others to do the same.

Here's hoping I have another good day tomorrow (and that I can sleep tonight!)


Ron said...

Thank you Angela! This is the stuff that "we" you're adoring audience wanted to know. From the posts that I've read it sounds like you have become very educated on your condition. Can't wait to get a chance to see you but you know I'll wait until the coast is clear with you and Mike!

PJones said...
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