Malignancy. He used the word cautiously, eyeing my two youngest daughters who were sitting in the room with me. After 2 1/2 months of struggling with fatigue and a cough, from which I would enjoy a brief respite only to return when I attempted normal activity again, a lump had formed in my neck a few days before. My family doctor was obviously concerned. He insisted upon a CT scan of my neck and chest, ordered more blood-work, and instructed me to keep the appointment with the Pulmonolgist to whom he had referred me a couple of weeks before. That was Monday, May 3rd.
Wednesday, I reported to the Pulmonologist. Wishing he was reviewing a CT scan instead, he analyzed my chest x-ray from two months previous. He asked probing questions, and as he thought aloud, he commented that it was curious that I'd responded to the antibiotics. "Or the steroids," I said, having been through two rounds of both. "Steroids!" the light bulb seemed to go off in his head, and suddenly the pieces of the puzzle started coming together. This fullness he saw at the top of the chest x-ray, viewed through the presence of the lump that had formed in my neck, led him to mention the possibility of lymphoma.
Lymphoma. Biopsy. Oncologist. The words that came out of his mouth caused tears to well in my eyes. I struggled to be brave and hold them back, but my lip quivered. He quickly dialed the number of the Radiologist, and handed me a box of tissues. Wanting to "expedite" things, he worked to finagle a biopsy after my scheduled CT scans, if necessary. Then, while I was in what he thought was a somewhat sane frame of mind, he went on to explain the sequence of events that would occur should the biopsy be positive. He also strongly urged me to bring my husband with me for the procedures, because I would probably need somebody to hold my hand.
My heart was heavy as I drove to my mom's house to pick up the kids. I stunned her with the recounting of my conversation with the pulmonologist. I paused first, and choked back a sob, each time I said the words biopsy and lymphoma. I took the kids home, rushed my daughter to dance class, and then went to my room to process things. As I sat in the dark, I cried. I was tired and overwhelmed. I prayed. I stayed in my room for about 45 minutes or so processing everything. I can't remember when I called my husband or told him. Maybe he called me on his way home from work. I remember that his response was very stoic and matter of fact. I had worked out with my mom that she would keep the kids overnight, so they were packing their things. We returned to have a quiet dinner with her. It was Cinco de Mayo, and she made spaghetti.