Walking Through Cancer?/Part 3

Critical Second Opinions

The lymph node biopsy was another easy procedure. I had general anesthesia. And because it was so easy with only a small incision in my groin, I decided I was fine to get back to my busy routines. Which I did, full force.

After one week of acting as though I hadn’t had surgery, the dam broke in my incision. I woke up to more water in my silk nightgown, this time about a cup of lymphatic fluid. I spent the next few days changing my pants and doubling my Kotex until it finally stopped. When I saw the surgeon shortly thereafter, I got more reprimands about not coming to the hospital so she could drain it herself. She took a needle while Gene held my hand and tried to squeeze some more liquid out, but there wasn’t any left.

While we were with her, I said,

“Well, aren’t you happy for me? The lymph node pathology report said ‘no metastatic tumor.’”

“Yes,” she replied, “but it was inconclusive for lymphoma. The sample was sent to NIH for consultation.”

“Okay, now you’ve lost me. If I have no lymphoma in my bone marrow, how can I have it in a lymph node?”

“Marilea, you need to discuss this with your hematologist. Come back Monday so I can keep an eye on that incision.”

Foiled again.

Well, I kept up with all my activities, except swimming.

By February. I’d been hanging by a thread since early September. Seems like a long time. What have I learned in all this time? Patience. And acceptance of what I cannot control: scheduling and pathology reports.

Dr. Julia wasted no time in calling in a second opinion from Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle. I had a Zoom consultation with a doctor there and she was concerned enough to order another bone marrow biopsy. Another one? I had to twist her arm for her to agree to sedation. The alternative was being awake but “tranquilized” with Ativan while two long needles of various thicknesses dug into my hipbone. Nah, I’m old school. Knock me out, please.

In the meantime, I’d been keeping up with my volunteer work, just keeping busy and distracted. Honestly, I’m so important, how would they manage without me at the thrift shop? Well, I was foolish. I got a raging staph infection in the incision and went on antibiotics for two weeks. My surgeon put me under house arrest. I couldn’t leave my bedroom.

A big lesson in humility. Note to Self: I’m simply not that important!

I made a nice hotel reservation in Seattle for the night before the early morning procedure on Tuesday, 2/6. My attentive surgeon at Providence insisted on seeing me before the procedure to see if I was sufficiently healed from the infection, and I passed inspection. A big sigh of relief! Gene and I had a nice dinner and night sleeping a couple of blocks from Fred Hutch. Getting there on time would be easy.

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