Thankfully the bone marrow tests came back negative, but we still had to find out whether or not the cancer had spread to the rest of my lymph system. This test was called a lymphangiogram, and would turn out to be a beaut.
My parents requested that all of my medical records be sent to a Dr. Goodstein for a second opinion. In the meantime we had already scheduled the lymphangiogram with a doctor over at Emory University Hospital. I brought my walkman with me so I could listen to music because they said that the test itself would last for around forty-five minutes.
Dad and I finally saw the doctor who’d be performing that procedure. The doctor sat us down and explained that he’d just spoken to Dr. Goodstein, literally just moments before we arrived at the hospital. The good Dr. G-spot (his hip-hop name) wanted to postpone the lymph system test so he could review my medical records with my folks and myself. Basically that day was a bust and we immediately went home.
A few days later we all went to see Dr. Goodstein at his office and he explained that he had some good news and some not-so-great news. I like good news so I asked for that first.
“Well Paul, it looks as though Dr. Kahn may have been mistaken about the disease spreading.”
“Excuse me?” I asked.
“I had the opportunity to review some of the x-rays and c.t. scans that you had on your abdomen last year and found something interesting.”
God. Last year was a pip. Those three hospitalizations.... Those scans were the ones that Dr. G was referring to.
“I found that what Dr. Kahn originally believed was the spreading of the Hodgkin’s was actually a nodule [or something] that everyone has. The reason he saw it in the first place was because you have little to no body fat, which in most people will usually hides this particular nodule. Dr. Kahn saw this and thought it was, again, the disease.”
“So then, why do you think that it isn’t?” I asked him.
“Because those c.t. scans were taken thirteen months ago, and if that nodule was Hodgkin’s affected then it would have had this long to spread and it didn’t. Luckily you had those c.t. scans made last year or we wouldn’t have had any time span to compare today’s x-rays with and you would have most certainly been treated with chemo therapy instead of radiation.”
“So what your saying, doctor, is that Paul doesn’t have to have chemo at all?” from my dad.
“Well, there are still some more tests to run, including the lymph node test that you were scheduled the other day for. And we’ve also identified some tissue in your lungs that we’ll have to examine. Most likely it’s just scar tissue from the flu or a really bad chest cold, but we need to be sure. For now we just need you to reschedule you appointment over at Emory with Dr. McCoy.”
The next week dad took me back to Emory and we met with Dr. McCoy. This procedure would prove to be a real pip.
What they had to do was, get this, give me a shot of zylocane between each toe in order to numb my foot. I guess knocking me over the head was out of the question. Then once my foot was numb Dr. McCoy would make an incision on the top of my foot, about an inch long. He’d find the lymph vessel, which ends near the top of the foot, and insert a needle into it. He compared this to threading the end of a hair with a needle. Sounds easy I’ll bet. Then once the vessel was threaded I had to lay there for forty-five minutes without moving because if the needle slipped out we’d have to start over again. Dr. McCoy started performing the procedure but I was extremely gun-shy from the last one (bone marrow aspiration) and was loaded for bear. But it didn’t hurt as bad. Having a needle inserted between each toe was something I could do without, for the rest of my life.
Once he threaded up the vessel he came up to where I was laying and put his hand on my arm.
“I’ll be back in a few minutes to check on the progress of the pump,” he said.
“And what does this do?” I asked.
“Basically the machine pumps, very slowly, a dye into your lymph system and we take c.t. scans from your neck to your pelvis. The dye helps the lymph nodes show up on the scans and we can see if the disease has spread to your system. Dr. Goodstein has a feeling that it hasn’t but we need to be sure. I’ll be back in a little bit,” he said, patting my arm.
I was left alone to my thoughts. That wasn’t so bad if you’re a genius, but I’m not so I had to just lay there and listen to my music. You know, I really had it pretty good up to then...I guess. Well maybe not.
I wasn’t one of those people who thought (thinks) that God is not just sitting up on the Throne waving a wand, snapping his fingers or wiggling his nose. Okay, maybe that was a bit blasphemous, comparing God to Samantha Stevens on Bewitched. I was never really “churchy” but I absolutely believe in God. I’m not one of those people who believes in Divine Intervention on a daily basis. I don’t think that I was being a turd and God gave me Hodgkin’s disease. Personally, I thought that it was my opportunity to close some old chapters in my life and start a new book.
Consider the c.t. scans the previous year when I had those unexplained stomach problems. Had I not had them, I wouldn’t have had scans for the good Dr. G to compare whatever node they were seeing in me today, to the previous year. Though I wasn’t really excited about the circumstances that led to the stomach problems in the first place, well, I was really thankful that they occurred, simply for the reason that it all was keeping me from having chemo therapy.
Sometimes good things arise from bad situations.
* * * *
I was just starting to doze off when Dr. McCoy came back into the room. I never really heard him because I was still listening to my walkman. Mainly I sensed a presence standing over me. I opened my eyes and tilted my head up a bit.
“How are you doing?” he asked.
“Well, my hips and legs are a bit stiff from not being able to move them, but otherwise I’m alright.”
“Good,” he said, walking over to the pump. He looked at it and said, “Just a few more minutes and you’ll be all done. We’ll take the catheters out of your feet and you’ll be on your way to the c.t. scan.”
I nodded and looked back up at the ceiling. I had the overwhelming urge to stretch my legs but knew that was a ‘no-no’. Why do hospitals have to be so friggin’ cold?
A few minutes went by and Dr. McCoy came back in. “Paul, don’t be surprised if your urine is a little discolored,” he told me.
“It might be a little bit green when you use the restroom.”
“Goody gumdrops!” I said, to which he laughed. “Soon I’ll be taking a nuclear piss,” at which he laughed even harder.
“I’ll see you after the c.t. scan.”
I was wheeled down to a room and the c.t. scan performed. No big whup. Dr. McCoy said that it looked pretty good but that Dr. Goodstein would go over it in detail. From what he could tell all of my lymph nodes looked normal.