• Lewis

Part Two: More tests than you could shake a stick at...

Updated: Oct 12, 2020

Fast forward a few weeks from the last blog, I found myself sitting in the Consultant Haematologist's (blood specialist) office discussing the plan of action. I would first get some blood tests done, followed by a PET scan; finally, I would begin chemotherapy. A regime called ABVD, which contains four drugs and I would receive this fortnightly for a total of 12 treatments.

I was referred to the Assisted Contraception Unit at Glasgow Royal. I took a trip up when I was on lunch at work, and I will leave the rest to your imagination...


While waiting for the results of my PET scan, a letter arrived in the post. The letter was for my GP explaining what was happening and how we planned to approach it. Also, within the body of text, it contained the line "I will arrange for him to have a bone marrow biopsy due to his blood count values." Three issues... nobody had informed me or prepared me for the letter or it's contents and what I had derived from Dr Google had told me was that a) Stage 4 HL was not the most pleasant of prospects and b) bone marrow biopsies were not fun. I was due to act as Assistant referee at a game that evening, so on the way, there was the first time I called the Macmillan's clinical specialists. They talked me through what all the results meant and that they weren't gospel; they were just an indication of what could be happening. I really cannot commend their knowledge and support enough; however, one thing they couldn't do was prevent me from having an absolute howler...


The following Monday, I was back once again this time, getting results from my PET Scan. He told me that the lymphoma had metastasised to the other side of my neck, my right armpit, several nodes down the side of my windpipe as well as to my spleen. This is what we already knew from the previous CT scan, so it wasn't much of a shock. However, my bone marrow had come back bright on the scan - this coupled with my blood counts made it look almost sure that my bone marrow was involved, but the only way to confirm this for sure was to take the dreaded biopsy. For context, a PET scan involves an injection of radioactive glucose into your arm. Cells that multiply quickly and require lots of energy (a.k.a cancer cells) absorb the glucose, the radioactive element makes these cells shine bright on the resulting scan. Bone marrow is the spongy material in the middle of your bones, where new blood cells are created in your body. Without it, we couldn't survive.


The consultant took me through to a hospital bed and began setting up - while doing so I made some jokes trying to pluck up the courage to ask the one question everyone in my situation would want to know the answer to. "Am I going to die?" As he continued pottering about getting various things, he bellowed "The short answer is no" and pulled a geeky but super reassuring smile. We then got on with the task at hand. A bone marrow biopsy involves the clinician firstly injecting a local anaesthetic (which I can confirm does not work) into your lower back. They then insert a needle to take a sample of bone marrow fluid from inside the bone, finally using another needle to break some of the bone to take as a sample for testing. I won't say any more except it may have been the most painful experience of my life and that I battered the pillow while swearing like a trooper. However, I did get to see my bone marrow afterwards...


Thankfully, the tests came back concluding that my bone marrow had escaped the wrath of Hodgkin's Lymphoma. After around two months of humming and hawing, we finally got an exact diagnosis...


Stage 3A Nodular Sclerosing Hodgkin's Lymphoma.




 

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