Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Archive for the category “The Heart”

Well I Did Not See That Coming

To recap, found a lump.  Saw my doctor.  Took medicine.  Got better.  Then got hurt.  Then saw a new doctor who only wanted me to see another doctor.

My appointment was in the evening.  It was already dark, and rainy.  The office was on the other side of town from where I lived.  As I pulled up on the address, the sign on the front lawn had the doctor’s name under big letters, HEMATOLOGY.  At the age of 22, I had never heard of “hematology” before, although gave it some thought that it could be a specialty in sports medicine.  So, without giving it any more thought, I went inside.

Funny, I saw an elderly woman, and a few other adults much older than me.  But hardly anyone would fit the description of being an athlete or having any kind of sports related injury.  Again, totally naive.

My name was called, and I was led back to an office.  I was expecting an exam room, but figured the other doctor had spelled out enough about my injury, and this doctor was just going to talk to me about options for my shoulder.

In walked the doctor, best described as looking like actor Jeff Goldbloom, just as tall too, though everyone pretty much is tall compared to me.  He walked around his desk and sat down.  Without even a shake of my hand, he looked down at the folder in front of him, then looked up at me.

“Hodgkin’s Disease is one of the most curable cancers…”

I honestly do not recall the rest of the immediate conversation because I really believed he had the wrong patient.  I was here for a sports injury, not cancer.

I gathered my focus, and he was still talking about cancer.  And he was directing it at me.

Well, all of a sudden, it was not Jeff Goldbloom I saw anymore, it was the Brundle Fly.  And I was now experiencing worse than denial, because not only did I think the doctor was talking to the wrong patient, he had not even let me interrupt to tell him why I was really there.  My blood began to boil.

Okay, so I did not flip his desk over.  But I wanted to.

“DOC!!  Stop!!  You have the wrong patient!!!  I am here for a sports injury.  I hurt myself training.  I am not here for cancer.”

He just sat there looking at me, confused as I was, and yet, resumed his cancer lecture with me.  He told me how important that it was that I begin treatment as soon as possible.  Hodgkin’s treatments are most successful when the cancer is caught early enough.

I just sank in the chair because I just could not get through to him.  I DID NOT HAVE CANCER!!  I mean, what the hell!  He did not even examine me.  How the hell is he diagnosing me with something that will kill me.  I hurt my fucking arm!!!!  I don’t have cancer.

And then he said this to me, and it is one thing that every Hodgkin’s patient HATES, and I do mean HATES to hear, “the good news is, if you are going to get a cancer, this is the one to get.”

I got up from my chair, swung his office door open that it banged into the wall, and stormed out.  Got into my car and sped off.  He would never see me again.  And as for the doctor that referred me to him, when I got home, I looked up the word “hematology” in the dictionary, for you kids reading this, we did not have Google or Wikipedia back then.  “Hema” means blood, and of course “ology” would be the study of.  Hodgkin’s Disease, now called Lymphoma is a blood cancer.  Why would that doctor send me to blood doctor?  I screwed up my shoulder.  I was done with that doctor too.

Or so I thought.


Denial – Forget The Cliche’s And Jokes

As I explain the events of my diagnosis of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, which occurred thirty years ago, I guess I should have mentioned something which might explain the importance of following these posts (in case you missed the first two, they precede this post – no others in between).  Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, while having a very high remission rate, is considered a rare form of cancer.  And it is that rarity that makes it difficult for many doctors to diagnose or even look for.  As I continue on with these posts, between my original doctor not knowing what to look for, along with a patient who never “saw the headlights of the bus about to run him over”, I am sure I am not the only patient to have experienced this struggle in my mind.

So, previously on “Paul’s Heart”, I mentioned about discovering the lump, being treated for the lump, and upon getting back to my regular routine, I was injured.

I went to that appointment that evening very confident that my friend sent me to someone who would not only understand my injury, but get me back to normal as quickly as possible.  I am not demeaning my family physician by any means.  This was strictly about getting back on the basketball court ASAP.

The doctor looked about the same age as my primary care doctor, and for the most part, everything seemed to go the same way as it would have with my doctor.  Weighed… measured… and then escorted into an exam room.  When the doctor came into the room, he shook my hand and asked me what he could do for me.

Me:  Well doc, I think I either pulled something or hopefully not, tore something in my left shoulder area.

He began to check me out, could see me wince in pain when he would lift my arm and straighten it out.  Perfect.  He would now be able to get me on the right path to getting this taken care of.

Doctor:  So, how did this happen?

Not what I was expecting.  I thought, you looked, you found, you diagnosed, let’s get moving.

Me:  I had this thing going on, and my family doctor told me to take it easy for a couple of weeks, take some medicine, and I should be fine.  I just went overboard when I went back into training, stupidly resuming with the levels and weights that I was at two weeks prior instead of adjusting.

Doctor:  What were you being treated for?

I am notorious for being super involved in my health care, and those close to me.  Admittedly I am much worse today with this attitude.  But as a patient, I want you to not only hear me, but listen to me.  My agitation level had begun to increase.

Me:  Um… I had this lump on the left side of my neck.  My doctor said it was probably a cold, gave me medicine for it, and it pretty much disappeared.  I mean, it’s still there a little bit.  But anyway, I hurt myself when I got back to the gym and was just stupid.

Doctor:  Did your doctor do any bloodwork?

Now I am getting annoyed.  I was there for a sports injury.  My lump thing was taken care of, not what I was at this appointment for.

Me:  Forget the lump doc.  I am here about my injury.

Doctor:  I just think you should get this lump checked out more thoroughly.  I would like to recommend you to someone.  I think you should get in to be seen as quickly as possible.

And on that note, I walked out.  Never to be seen or heard again.  Or so I thought.  The doctor had made the appointment for me, and upon confirmation via telephone by the referred doctor, I cancelled the appointment.  The doctor I had just seen did not even pay attention to what I was saying and why I was there.  I had a sports injury.  Enough with the fucking lump already!!!!!

I got a call the next morning at work from the doctor that I saw that prior evening.  He had heard I cancelled my appointment and was quite stern that I keep the appointment.  It was an approach from a doctor I had not experienced before, but somehow he got through to me (note – this similar approach is now used by several of my doctors to get through my stubbornness).  A new appointment was made for that evening.

That Did Not Last Long

* The following is a continuation of the 30th anniversary of my journey of the diagnosis of my Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

I admit that I can be stubborn.  And it is no exception when I get a doctor’s order.  But as all three of my primary care doctors that I have ever had, two no longer practicing (one actually would be over 100 years old now), I do not see a doctor unless I pretty much have a limb falling off.  But at this point, if my doctor prescribed something for me, to help me, I never questioned it.  If I was at the doctor, I had a problem, it needed to be dealt with.

I was not happy with the doctor’s orders of rest for two weeks.  But with the large lump in my neck, I was no longer comfortable.  Take the anti-inflammatory for two weeks, rest, and I will be good to go.  No weightlifting, and worse, no playing basketball.  We had just started a city league basketball team at work which I was totally psyched to be playing on, now sidelined for two weeks.  But my doctor assured me the medicine would work.  I had some sort of cold or infection.  If the lump would have been in different location, he admitted his plan would have been different but was confident in his plan and prognosis.

And the medicine did work.  The lump went down nearly 80% and as the two week “rest period” neared its end, I could not wait to get back to the gym, get myself back into condition to hit the court again.

Another unfortunate quirk about myself, is that I do not have a dimmer switch.  I go full tilt with everything I do.  I was so frustrated with not being able to train for two weeks, instead of just easing back into the training, I went right back at the weights and times that I stopped at because I did not want the two week rest to have any impact on me.  I felt up to it.  And it was what I wanted to do.

And of course, instead of just easing back, going as hard as the day I stopped, even if only two weeks, I developed a pain in my left arm pit whenever I extended my left arm straight.  I had hurt myself.

I spoke to my friend and co-worker, Stephen (disclaimer, this photo is not of either of us) and explained to him my frustrations about now being hurt and not able to play that night as I had hoped.  He understood, and suggested that I see his doctor as Stephen had seen his doctor for injuries and felt confident that his doctor could help me bounce back quick.  Even though I had my own doctor, my sights were set on getting better enough to get back on the court.  I made the call, and got in to see his doctor that evening.

And that is when things got confusing, and my stubbornness came out.


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