A few months ago I stopped participating in web forums (fora? Three years of Latin and I still do not know). However, I recently learned an important health lesson I wish to share. This might save your life, or the life of someone you love.
Two months ago I was diagnosed with lymphoma. It is a treatable, curable cancer, and my oncologist fully expects me to achieve a complete cure. I am undergoing chemotherapy. Although I would certainly appreciate prayers, I am not writing this to solicit sympathy. I want to relay the aforementioned lesson about dealing with your health.
This is the lesson: Don't ignore lumps.
Six months before I knew I had cancer, I got a lump on my shoulder. My primary care provider told me, "It's a cyst. Let's not do anything about it unless it becomes infected."
Because my brother-in-law, Doug Gensinger, died of leukemia, I have been active with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. I researched my lump. Since I did not have any overt symtoms of cancer, I remained unconcerned.
Fast forward six months. More lumps and a biopsy. After I got my cancer diagnosis, the surgeon who did the biopsy on my groin lump called the thing on my shoulder a cyst, another primary care provider called it a cyst, two radiologists called it a cyst, the surgeon who put in my chemo port called it a cyst. My oncologist called it a cyst.
Then I had my PET scan. Guess what. It's a cancerous lymph node. My second opinion oncologist said, "I'm not buying the diagnosis until we biopsy the thing on your shoulder. It looks like a cyst, but the PET scan does not lie."
The surgeon who biopsied the shoulder lump said, "Sure looks like a cyst, but if the oncologists want it biopsied, that's what I get paid to do."
The good news is, this did not change the diagnosis, nor the treatment, nor the prognosis. The surgeon who did the biopsy on my shoulder said, "I knew it was a lymph node 30 seconds after I made the first cut."
The moral: I could have begun treatment six months earlier and been done by now. The good news is, I have an indolent form of cancer. If I had an aggressive cancer, the six months could have meant the difference between life and death. I am one lucky sumbitch.
So, if you get a lump, and your primary care doctor says, "Let's wait a bit before we do anything," Your reply should be, "Let's do a biopsy tomorrow." Remember, I had NO other cancer symptoms!
- Rich Colarco '66