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Monday, February 28, 2011

Cancer - How It Has Affected and Is Affecting My Family

Part I – A Little History for You

    Cancer has long been a part of life in my family. My great-grandfather died of skin cancer. My uncle died of some rare form of cancer that made him dwindle away to skin and bones before he died. My grandfather survived a battle with prostrate cancer before dying of lung cancer that metastasized to his liver. My mother-in-law battled breast and stomach cancer. My father-in-law was believed to have a minor case of bladder cancer. And now, as of mid-January, 2011, my wife has been diagnosed with a rare form - there's that phrase again - of lymphoma, affecting only 1% of all lymphoma patients. She suffers from a condition called "angio immunoblastic T-cell lymphoma."
    Around Halloween of 2010 she found a small lump on the left side of her collar bone. Friends suggested that it was probably just a swollen lymph node and that she was "probably coming down with something." A few weeks later she had found several more lumps, prompting her to pay a visit to her physician. The doctor agreed that she might be coming down with some sort of cold or infection, but she also wanted to run some tests to be sure. Blood samples were drawn and an appointment was made for an ultrasound.
    A few days before the ultrasound was to be done cancer took another swing at my family when my grandmother passed away from lung cancer that had metastasized to one of her ribs, a few vertebrae, and, most likely, the base of her brain. We made the trip from Los Angeles to the Charlotte, NC, area to attend the viewing and funeral along with many, many other family members and close friends. Unfortunately, during the week-long trip, my wife noticed that the lumps were not only getting larger, but there were even more of them - now there were several large lumps in each arm pit (axillary lymph nodes). We began to grow a little more concerned and she began scouring the internet and searching all of her symptoms, which is probably the absolute worst thing anyone with any type of condition can do.
    She kept coming back to lymphoma and leukemia as being the most probable diagnosis of her symptoms. On top of that, if it was lymphoma it was a choice between Hodgkin’s or non-Hodgkin's. And if it was non-Hodgkin’s there were at least twenty-three (23) different varieties. All of our family members and friends kept telling her to stay off the internet because she was only depressing herself, but she refused to listen. She insisted that she was just "gathering information" and "informing" herself so that she knew more about the possible conditions and would be able to discuss all options with the doctor or doctors, as the case may be. Our anxiety about the situation was only made worse by the fact that every test came back negative or inconclusive. At this time we hadn't shared any of this with anyone else, as we didn't want to "poke a stick at a sleeping bear" and stir up any negative feelings before we knew something more definite.

Coming up...Cancer - Part II - Family Traditions

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