Sunday, July 10, 2011
This One Is For Me ~
I don't write for you. I mean, I do, but I mostly write for me. It's cathartic. It helps get it all out of my head and onto a place where I can look at it and sort through it and organize it. Sometimes it is personal stuff and sometimes it is also spiritual - maybe a struggle or an enlightenment that I need to work through. Sometimes I don't have much to write about because I'm not thinking about much. Other times, I have a lot.
You are always welcome to follow along when I write it here, but this one is definitely for me to sit down and sort through. I wrote this one for me.
A little over a year ago I felt a lump in the left side of my neck, right under my ear. Whenever I get a sore throat or get tired, I get a lump in my neck over there too. This one wasn't exactly in the same spot but I figured there were plenty of glands over there so I wasn't too worried. Around the same time i saw my doctor for a spot on my arm that I was worried about. So ironic now that I think about it. So my doctor cut this thing off my arm and sent it off to the lab to be tested. I felt like he thought I was being a bit paranoid but hey, you never know. Turns out it was nothing. At the same time I told him about this lump in my neck. He felt of it and said it was probably a swollen gland, nothing to worry about, and I should just keep an eye on it and let him know if it grew or changed.
Fast forward 4 months. Back to the doctor for my normal yearly exam because I try to keep ahead of any health problems by taking advantage of preventive exams. I mentioned that this lump had grown slightly and the doctor wrote out an order for an ultrasound. Nothing to be alarmed about he said, just to make sure.
Then BAM! I broke out with a heinous rash due to some medication I was taking. Medication reactions, I've been told, can take a year or more to get over and I've found that to be true. Anyways, with this rash I had hives for a solid month and a rash from head to toe that itched like crazy. So I wasn't really concerned about this small lump in my neck. I forgot all about the ultrasound for another 4 months while I battled this rash.
THEN, I was transferred to another area of the hospital where my co-worker noticed I kept rubbing my neck. When she asked about it I told her it was probably nothing, my doctor even said so. I can still hear her alarmed voice in my head, "Jennifer! Anything that isn't normal in your body, you need to get checked out!" I don't know why, maybe it was the tone of her voice but I was motivated to call my doctor immediately and get the order sent again so I could have that ultrasound.
Report sent to primary doctor.
Referral to head/neck doctor.
Fine Needle Aspiration
Let me stop here and explain something about this fine needle aspiration. Yes, the needle is very small. It is definitely not fine. The doctor who performed this procedure was supposed to do it 3 times but he felt so sorry for me after the first time that he wouldn't proceed. I was sobbing like a big baby. However, he looked at the slide under the microscope and said that he didn't see anything to worry about but they would send it to the lab to make sure.
I saw my head/neck doctor a few days later again and he stated that the lump was a tumor, what they call a pleomorphic adenoma which is simply a benign tumor. Boy was I relieved! He said it would still have to be removed surgically because it would only get bigger, may effect the nerves in my face (OMG) and had the potential to become cancerous (OMG).
Recovery (Lots of time with my mama!)
Pathology Report = BAD NEWS
I did NOT have a pleomorphic adenoma. The tumor was adenoid cystic carcinoma a rare and unusual type of cancer. But who cares what it was called, it was cancer. My doctor was almost as shocked as I was. I almost fell off my chair. My mother was there, she was stunned.
Next came a trip to the oncologist. My blood runs cold every time I hear oncologist now. Thank goodness he was very easy on the eyes, it made my visit there so much better!
So, here is the low-down:
I had a tumor that turned out to be cancer. I had it for over a year, I don't know how long it had been malignant. I think I dodged a bullet. Better yet, God was watching over me. Whew.
They got the whole tumor with clean margins, meaning they got a bit of tissue around it so it is gone.
I will have scans to make sure it is nowhere else. I will have CT scans of the chest periodically because that is where it would probably go next if it ever came back.
The chances of it coming back in the next 5 years is less than 10%.
After 15 years, the percentage is much higher but my prognosis is still good and I have an excellent doctor, as far as I can tell.
I start radiation treatments in 4 - 6 weeks, every day for 30 days as a preventive measure, just to make sure...
Before radiation starts, I will see a special dentist so I can learn how to take care of my teeth and prevent bone more bone damage in the future. Radiation weakens bone and teeth are bones. Plus I have a jaw bone. You get the idea.
As far as I can tell from the research, I didn't do anything to get or facilitate the growth of this cancer. I'm glad I found it when I did. I'm glad for my co-worker who urged me to find out what it was. I am a bit confused about the 15-year statistics but plan to ask my oncologist next time I see him. Websites and medical terms can be so confusing.
If you are still with me at this point, I applaud you. Thank you for listening to me sort through what happened and what is happening. This one was for me but I'm glad you cared enough to go there with me.
God is good, ALL THE TIME.