Hodgkin’s Disease – In The Beginning
Four words in the form of a question I always get asked, “How did you know?”
Up until my 22nd birthday, I had really only ever had one experience with cancer personally, and that was my Grandmother. She had beaten breast cancer and was doing well. The only other mention of cancer, was hearing that someone had died from it.
I was engaged (to my eventual ex-wife) with a little more than six months to go until the wedding. There was not any feeling that something was wrong. It was rare that my doctors would ever see me other than for an annual shot to help me deal with seasonal allergies.
It was just by chance that I had reached my hand up to the back of my neck to scratch a spot that was not really all that itchy, just enough to get noticed. There it was, just two inches below my left ear, a huge lump about the size of an inch in diameter. For the life of me, I swear it just popped up. I never noticed it before. But it was not normal. So, I went to the doctor. He felt due to its location, it was not a concern, probably a swollen node from perhaps the common cold. Given the title of this post, I am sure you must be thinking “what kind of !@#$^@&#!!!! doctor was seeing”? Just hold on for a brief moment longer.
The doctor put me on Naprosin, which is an anti-inflammatory, which actually did the trick and reduced the node in my neck. But alone with the prescription, he did not want me playing any basketball or volleyball, really nothing athletic to give my body enough rest. Odd orders for something compared to the common cold. But once that was done, I went full tilt trying to get my body back into the swing of activities, exercise, weights, and of course, the games.
Almost immediately, I developed a very wierd painful tightness under my left arm when I extended it. I cannot explain it, but I was upset with my doctor over all this, that it must have been his fault that ordering me rest for those couple of weeks made me susceptable to an injury. So a co-worker had recommended that I go see his doctor who was pretty good at dealing with injuries.
I was only there briefly when he recommended seeing an oncologist. I had no idea what that was, but agreed to go see it. Upon entering the office, I still had not idea what discipline of medicine it was, but with all the fancy equipment, there is no way this was any simple office visit. The doctor, who resembled Jeffrey Goldblum as The Fly, had barely walked into the office I was put in, not an exam room, not even shaking my hand, and begun to tell me about Hodgkin’s Disease.
HOLD ON A F*CKIN MINUTE!!! Hodgkin’s Disease?!? I had heard of it, not sure how, but no, no way. I had a sports injury. He obviously has me mixed up with someone else. I was ready to bolt out of the office, but somehow he convinced me to at least an examination, which I conceded to. Of course, then for whatever reason, he explained he need to… well… take his finger and go where no one has ever gone before. When I protested and questioned the reason, he said to check for blood in the stool. To which I warned him that the only blood he would see, would be his own if he attempted it. So he does the digital, and now I cannot figure out which has me pissed off more, going in my out door or trying to tell me I had something bad, real bad. He insisted on investigating the lump in my neck, which had resumed growing. I said that I was there for my sports injury, not my neck. He wanted to do a biopsy. I wanted to do a quick exit.
So, six second opinions later, the final by a sports facility who ruled out the sports injury definitely, and then recommended that I get the biopsy done.
Within the next two weeks, the biopsy was done, and the preliminary diagnsosis was made. Hodgkin’s Disease, Nodular Sclerosing, stage of disease to be determined following further tests.
And how on earth did a doctor mistake cancer as a common cold? Hodgkin’s is a very difficult cancer to diagnose, as far as recognizing it. There was nothing in my bloodwork to offer any clue, and x-rays and CT scans were negative. But it was noted in journals, that Hodgkin’s was often misdiagnosed as a common cold by general practitioners.