The Diagnosis (Part Three)

Continued from Part Two

The next seven days are a blur.

I was admitted to the hospital (St. Luke’s East), and hooked up to oxygen. While they still weren’t certain what had caused my original issues, the immediate concern was my sepsis. My doctors needed to deal with my raging fever and blood poisoning before they could begin to figure out what type of cancer I was dealing with.

I have very little memory of this time, as I was in and out of consciousness and suffering from a pretty high fever when I was awake. I remember constant sweating, and having bags of ice and a circular cooling pillow to put around my neck to help keep me cool. I can’t remember any of the nurses or staff from this time, but I do remember watching parts of various movies on my room’s television. And I could swear I saw the same episode of Family Guy multiple times.


Lookin’ good while my brain cells boil away

I remember my wife, Haley, being by my side every minute she could be. She talked to every doctor and nurse that came in, trying to find out more about what was happening to me, brought me food from home, hooked up a fan to keep me cool, and spent hours learning about symptoms and medical conditions to try and help get a diagnosis. I have a vague memory of a nurse being rude and handling me roughly, but I distinctly remember Haley then going and talking to someone and I never saw that nurse again.

I say this with no exaggeration or hyperbole: If it wasn’t for the efforts of my wife, I don’t think I would be alive right now.

After four or five days, we were able to fight off the infections enough to start working on a diagnosis. The first step was to sedate me and drill into my femur in order to get a biopsy. They were unable to get a good sample, and during the sedation my oxygen levels dipped even lower, which meant that the next biopsy attempt would have to be done without sedation.

That, I remember very clearly.

I was taken to the operating room and laid on my stomach while they injected a local anesthetic into the rear of my pelvis. Then they began drilling into the bone. The pain wasn’t bad, but the feeling of having a hole drilled into the back of my pelvis, and the smell of burning bone, will likely be with me for the rest of my life.

Thankfully, this biopsy was successful, and I was finally given a diagnosis: Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma. It’s a rare type of T-Cell Lymphoma (non-Hodgkin), and is an aggressive cancer of the blood. In the simplest terms, my immune system had gone insane and begun attacking parts of my own body. The pain I had been feeling was because my blood cells had somehow determined that several of my bones were foreign objects and needed to be removed.

It’s a small thing, but having a name for what was happening to me really meant a lot. Up until this point, I hadn’t realized how much mental stress was being caused simply because there was nothing I could point to and say “This, this is what’s causing me so much pain.”

Now that we knew for sure that it was cancer, and what type of cancer, it was time to start treatment. But for that, I would need to be taken to a different hospital, one that was better equipped to offer chemotherapy treatments. And so, seven days after being admitted to St. Luke’s East, I was loaded into an ambulance and driven thirty minutes north, to the St. Luke’s main campus in downtown Kansas City.

Continued in Part Four


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