August 4, 2008

While I was still in hospital on Thursday—in fact, in the middle of a conversation with my hematologist—I noticed a small bump on my right forearm. It looked kind of like a bug bite, but didn't really feel like one. I pointed it out to her and she said we'd keep an eye on it.

Saturday morning I woke up with a lump pretty much like the first one, only this time on my abdomen. This one was a bit different; it was tender like a spider bite, but the lump itself was harder. Two lumps in three days? While watching Max's soccer practice I got on the phone with the oncologist on call and made an appointment to come in the next day.

The entire time I was, of course, quietly freaking out. Having one form of cancer makes you more susceptible to others; hell, even cancer treatment can make you more susceptible. The suddenness of the lumps' appearance was bothering me, and I kept checking to see if others were showing up.

Sunday morning I was at the hospital, and the oncologist on call looked both the lumps over, pinching them, rolling them a bit between his fingers, and asking me a barrage of questions about when they appeared, how they felt, and so on. Then he disappeared and got on the phone with my hematologist. The verdict: they probably weren't life-threatening, but I should bump up my checkup from Wednesday to Monday.

And so this morning we went through my usual checkup routine. I got a blood test and a catheter dressing change in the oncology clinic. Then Vicky and I froze to death in the waiting area for my hematologist. (The clinic was unusually quiet, so I sped right through, which had us waiting longer for my hematologist.) When it was finally time, my hematologist also did a physical exam. When I sat back down she said, "Like I thought, it's the leukemia."

I didn't miss a beat. "How is it the leukemia?"

"Sometimes it 'leaks' from the blood and gets under the skin."

"So it's a tumour."

"That's right."

Dammit, dammit, dammit. Months ago, when I was looking and feeling great, she'd made the comment that I didn't "have rip-roaring leukemia." Now, with the transplant so close, I'd had three infections and now this? I visualized myself sprinting hard on a track, racing against the leukemia to beat it to the transplant date at the finish line.

Already prepared, my hematologist gave me the course of action. I was to start one of the chemotherapy treatments I was going to do before we met with the transplant specialist; an outpatient procedure where I'd get seven injections of Vidaza over nine days. Vidaza on its own wouldn't be as hard on my system as previous treatments—I'd keep my hair, have no mouth sores, and the potential for nausea would be far lower—which meant it wouldn't interfere with my transplant readiness, but it should slow the leukemia's spread. Because I'd already been cleared for the Vidaza, treatment started today; I went straight back up to the oncology clinic, waited through the noontime rush, and got two injections in the abdomen.

Interestingly, when I pointed out the abdominal bump, my nurse noticed a black dot right on top of it—a sign that it might just be some fluid trapped under there from my Lovenox injection last week. It so happened that my hematologist was there, and when she looked at it again she concurred, especially since it was more tender. "Do you mean to tell me I just spent thousands of dollars in treatment for nothing?" she joked. (This is why we like her.) She still felt the first lump appeared and behaved exactly like a tumour, and I may get a biopsy to be absolutely sure. But with the finish line so close, we're not taking any chances.


posted by Emru Townsend at


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