Cancer

The beginning…. It began with an ear infection. A… | by Sarah | Jan, 2024

It began with an ear infection. A monumental ear infection, in which there was a great deal of pain and leaking and most likely a rupturing of at least one of my ear drums. After no less than three visits to urgent care, the pain subsided and my hearing returned. But with it, it seemed some swollen lymph nodes on my neck. No big deal right. Side effect of the infection. I didn’t make a fourth visit to urgent care. I was urgent cared out.

The swelling slowly persisted over time. I pretended not to notice.

Finally in November, I casually mentioned it to the receptionist at my neurologists office. Solidarity when she spoke about how stressed she was. I said I same, I mean and indicated the now significantly more swollen spot on my neck. She asked if I had spoken with the neurologist and I said no so she called her over. She sent me to urgent care for an antibiotic.

They sent me to the emergency room where I sat alone for seven miserable hours. Apparently I chose to finally do something about my health concern on the day a CT scan machine was down. Sent home with a follow up appointment with a primary care doctor, I went back to ignoring it.

This doctor sent me for an MRI. I thought this was the worst experience ever. Claustrophobic in a metal tube with my face caged down to the table, I was trapped for what seemed like hours. They injected contrast and I had difficulty breathing and no one noticed. Afterward, I was dizzy and unsteady on my feet. This was not my worst experience.

My primary care doctor announce at my next visit that I had an pleomorphic adenoma, not cancer! He looked so pleased with himself. I asked how he came to that conclusion because I saw my MRI report which suggested five possible diagnoses including that, four types of cancerous tumors and lymphoma. He pointed to where it said most likely and I said but it also said all of these other possibilities, how do you know which one? He did X-rays of my chest to make sure it wasn’t lymphoma and said the X-rays were clear so I was good. He referred me to an ENT doctor to remove the tumor and again I went back to ignoring it.

The day of my ENT appointment arrived and I met my doctor. He began talking about the surgery to remove my tumor. There was a lot of complicated issues with the surgery including my face no longer being symmetrical and the potential for nerve damage. He had me scheduled for a fine needle biopsy to determine if the tumor was benign or cancerous because that would affect which type of surgery he would perform. My surgery was scheduled. It was harder to ignore.

I went to the hospital for my fine needle biopsy with no preconceptions of what a fine needle biopsy would be other than it would likely be a thin needle, right? Nope, they evaluated my case and decided they would also do a core biopsy too. So they took multiple samples of the fine needle. When it came time to do the core biopsy, the man performing the biopsies says you’ll hear a click, I just want to prepare you. It was directly next to my ear because of the location of the biopsy so it wasn’t a click. It sounded like I was shot. I was sent home to await my results. Yet again harder to ignore.

I received the call from my doctor three days later. It was a Saturday. The biopsy showed that I have lymphoma. They want to schedule a lymph node biopsy to determine which type of lymphoma. I can’t ignore this anymore.


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