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In late January, Jim began having what he thought were familiar pains in his side. They were intermittent and he assumed yet another kidney stone. After about a month, when the “stone” hadn’t moved and his pain continued to increase, he went to the local Urgent Care. The doctor there sent him for a CT scan. The results showed no kidney stones but there was an abnormality on his spine. They recommended he assign a primary care physician and referred him to an oncologist. The oncologist, Dr. Goldberg, reviewed the original CT and sent him for additional bloodwork, a 2nd CT with contrast, and a full spine MRI, as well as a biopsy of the lesion itself. The results took much longer to return than anticipated because, we later learned, they were sent back out for additional analysis to be certain of the diagnosis. In the meantime, Jim found that he was unable to take most pain medication, making the situation close to unbearable at times. Eventually he was prescribed hydromorphone, which, alternating with Tylenol, has kept him relatively comfortable.
Last Thursday, after waiting for 2 ½ wks, Dr. Goldberg delivered the news - Jim has Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma, or DLBCL, the most common form of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. Though we have not been given a “stage” yet, the treatment would be the same for 1 or 4, and Dr. G is very optimistic for a positive outcome, as are we. The standard course of treatment is a chemo regimen called R-CHOP. He will go twice a week, beginning next Tuesday/Thursday, and then three weeks after that and three weeks after that, etc., for the duration of 4 ½ months (six actual weeks of chemo). After the second week of treatment (wk of 4/17-21), he will undergo a second PET scan to ensure the drugs are working and the tumor is shrinking. On the way out, Jim stopped for yet another blood deposit and then headed home. From there things got crazy. They got calls to set up an initial PET scan (to further assess the extent of the cancer), an echocardiogram (to ensure his heart was strong enough to hold up to the chemo), a surgical consult (to make arrangements for outpatient surgery to insert a port for chemo treatments), as well as calls from the oncologist’s office to discuss everything going on and next steps. In between, they have been dealing with insurance, work, disability, VA benefits, concerned friends & family, etc., so “overwhelming” doesn’t come close to describing the overall situation.
At this point, surgery for the port insertion is scheduled for tomorrow morning, his heart passed the echocardiogram with flying colors, bloodwork was fine, and the PET scan showed no further spread of the disease – all good news. Next week’s first chemo infusion may be difficult and, because it’s the first one, very long (4-5 hours). We expect it will also bring some discomfort for a few days but Jim is a rock. He is heading into this journey with realistic expectations and optimism that this is just a bump in the road and he’ll be back to his normal routine in time to see the birth of his first grandchild this coming August.