On December 9, 2016, our lives began as normal - kids went off to school, we headed to work, and then Joe went to a doctor's appointment. We didn't realize that by the end of the day - we would be traveling down a path from which our lives and family would forever be changed.
Joe's initial appointment was to check swollen lymph nodes in his neck on both sides. Although he had been having symptoms for awhile, we didn't think much of it. After all, he's young, healthy, and active. That same day he was referred for an ultrasound of the swollen areas as well as lab work, and he received a referral to see an otolaryngologist (ENT physician) for a consultation and biopsy. On Monday (12/12), the ENT physician (Dr. Wood), informed us that Joe's blood work was fairly normal, but it did show anemia which is unusual in men. He discussed some possible reasons for the symptoms that Joe was experiencing including mono, sarcoidoisis, and lymphoma among other things and ordered additional blood work. He also performed a needle biopsy to withdraw some fluid from the swollen lymph node on the left side of Joe's neck. We left the clinic with a few big words to ponder (and Google) and the expectation to have the needle biopsy results back within 5-7 days. Thankfully, we received the results back in 2 days; unfortunately, those results turned our world upside down.
One word that most (if not all) people fear is cancer. We all know someone effected by it, or we know someone who knows someone who has been effected by it. It's a scary word - terrifying actually, but most of us don't truly understand the fear associated with that word until it strikes your home. Joe's needle biopsy result came back on Wednesday (12/14) positive for possible lymphoma, carcinoma, or melanoma. Those were three words that we didn't expect to hear and unfortunately, all three meant the one word that we most feared - cancer. We were shocked and heartbroken. Our lives, so normal days and even moments before that call, became a whirlwind of fear and uncertainty; it all seemed surreal.
On Thursday (12/15), we met with the Hem/Onc physician (Dr. Brooks) who talked with us regarding the results from Joe's tests and presented us with a possible answer - Hodgkin's Lymphoma. A definite diagnosis could not be made until additional testing, but at that moment we were thankful to have something to focus on and possibly an answer our questions. We discussed what to expect in the upcoming weeks - more tests including a PET scan, a surgery to remove one of the swollen lymph nodes for further testing, a final diagnosis, another surgery to insert the port, and then the beginning of chemotherapy treatments. On Monday (12/19), Joe had the PET scan, and we met with Dr. Brooks again to review the results. Based on the tests that were performed up to that point as well as Joe's symptoms, Dr. Brooks felt strongly that we were still looking Hodgkin's Lymphoma - possibly Stage 2B, but a final diagnosis would not be confirmed until the results from a more in depth biopsy. On Tuesday (12/20), Joe went into surgery to remove one of the swollen lymph nodes, and with this biopsy, we hoped and prayed that our questions would finally be answered. We also hoped and prayed for a miracle.
Finally, on Thursday (12/22), our weeks of uncertainty ended and our questions were answered. Joe was diagnosed with Stage 2B Nodular-Sclerosis Classical Hodgkin's Lymphoma (NSCHL). Unfortunately, our greatest fear was confirmed. Luckily, this form of lymphoma is considered treatable and curable and for that we are very thankful.
And so, Joe's fight begins. As a family, we will move forward these next months filled with hope, optimism, and faith. As a family, we will cry together, laugh together, and pray together. Joe's wins against this disease will be our family's wins against this disease. His setbacks will be our setbacks. Together, we will face each new day with hope and faith knowing that God's got this.