Part III – The Results Are In
January 7th came, and the surgeon removed several axillary lymph nodes and sent them out for testing. He advised us that, barring any complications, the results should be back within three business days. But the three business days came and went, as did the fifth, seventh and tenth. My wife and sister-in-law had a running joke that results would come back negative and that she was either allergic to the convenience store coffee she drank daily or she was allergic to doing the dishes. Her oncologist, however, decided on a different approach. He decided that this most likely meant that she did have lymphoma, and that the lab was busy trying to type it. Privately, my wife had already come to the same decision. He started her on a few medications to get her ready for her chemotherapy regimen...just as a precaution. The plan was to get ahead of the treatment so that she would be ready to start as soon as the results came in. When they came in a few days later, they were proven to be correct - the lab had to run twenty-seven different tests on the nodes, which is why it had taken so much time. That's when she got the formal diagnosis.
Her next procedure was a bone marrow biopsy - a required procedure for lymphoma patients solely for the purpose of determining the total treatment regimen. Of course the doctors and nurses told her that she would only feel a pinch and some pressure, but very little discomfort. They lied. The doctor injected her with numbing medicine, waited a few minutes, and then began to work a stainless steel tool, similar to a corkscrew without the curves, back and forth in a twisting motion in her right buttock. I was sitting at the head of the operating table letting her hold my hands and watching as they performed the procedure. When the tool made contact with her hip bone it made the sort of sound that your steak knife makes when you hit the bone in your steak by accident. As it turned out, my lovely wife has a very thick pelvic bone that was also very hard, causing this "5-minute procedure" to drag on for almost thirty minutes.
The final procedure was to install a "port" (portable catheter) into the upper right side of her chest. This would allow nurses and other hospital staff to access her blood stream without having to put an IV into her. Since my wife has small, rolling veins, we viewed it as a very good idea. The port would allow them to take blood samples, as well as administer IV and chemo fluids without taking any chances of collapsing her veins throughout the chemo regimen. And with the results in and all the procedures done the treatment was defined; she would have chemo treatments (called "a cycle") every three weeks for a total of six to eight cycles.
Coming up...Part IV - The Next Steps