My hospital has wifi. This = love. Instead of my normal routine of waiting, waiting, waiting, getting stuck with needles, waiting, talking to doctors, waiting, more waiting, waiting, waiting, and on, I can be productive. I have sent out a few work emails, checked on some work and now am writing.
Before I can start treatment, I am having a series of tests known as “staging”. In my diagnosis process, I had CT scans of my neck and chest which showed enlarged lymph nodes in both areas. Today, I am having a CT of my abdomen and a PET scan. Because of some backups that I thought scheduling my scans early in the morning would prevent, I spent a total of 5 hours sitting in the hospital today. Again, thank goodness for free wifi.
The CT scan seems to have improved since the good old days that my friends and family talk about. Instead of having to drink what essentially boils down to as chalk, I was given a vanilla barium “smoothie”. True, I had to drink 4 glasses of it in 2 hours and thought I was going to throw up by the end, but at least it was vaguely palatable. I was injected with the contrast solution through my IV when I was on the CT table which is always a fun experience. The contrast solution gives you a pretty strong metallic taste in your mouth which is my strongest reaction. It also makes you warm and, as I am always told before every CT scan, it makes you feel like you peed your pants. Ah, the joys of modern medicine.
Positron emission tomography (PET) is a form of nuclear medicine that helps to identify cancer cells in the body. As I type, there is nuclear material running through my veins. Maybe I will turn into Superwoman. It’s not a bad exam, just long and boring since (at least in my case), it scanned my entire body.
On Monday, I am having a bone marrow biopsy. Unfortunately, I watched Grey’s Anatomy and the Charlie Brown special where the little girl has leukemia, which tells me this is very painful and makes me anxious. No more Grey’s Anatomy or House for me until all of this is over. Next Friday I will also have an EKG and pulmonary function test just to set up a baseline of heart and lung function.
After that, we will have staging complete and be able to begin treatment, which will most likely be some combination of radiation and chemo.
Staging goes as follows:
- Stage I is involvement of a single lymph node region (I) (mostly the cervical region) or single extralymphatic site (Ie);
- Stage II is involvement of two or more lymph node regions on the same side of the diaphragm(II) or of one lymph node region and a contiguous extralymphatic site (IIe);
- Stage III is involvement of lymph node regions on both sides of the diaphragm, which may include the spleen (IIIs) and/or limited contiguous extralymphatic organ or site (IIIe, IIIes);
- Stage IV is disseminated involvement of one or more extralymphatic organs.
Staging also can be divided into A and B. B means you have symptoms such as fatigue, night sweats, and sudden weight loss of up to 10% of your body weight. I show no symptoms, which has a moderately better prognosis for an already very treatable disease.
I am at least Stage IIA because I have malignancy in both my chest and neck. Today’s tests will tell me if I have any below my diaphragm in my abdomen or groin. All staging really does is helps to give a clear cut path for treatment. If I am stage III, for instance, they will not do radiation therapy because it is too widespread