Staging my cancer and working out my chemotherapy treatment schedule

Today was an unfortunate roller coaster of appointments being cancelled, chemo being rescheduled, and then cancelled appointments being re-instated, but things are now sorted out.

I met with the oncologist to go over biopsy and PET scan results and discuss any symptoms I have (which is none). I was told that my second neck biopsy (the surgery one last week that was not much fun) was ultimately unnecessary, because they sent the first biopsy to BC Cancer for full testing and they came back with a 100% positive result for Hodgkins Lymphoma. Isn’t that nice?

We have established that I have Classic Hodgkins Lymphoma, stage 2A, of the Nodular Sclerosis type. Here’s what that means:

I’ve got three tumours (found by the PET scan) all on the upper half of my body – so only one side of my diaphragm. That means I’m stage 2. They are located on my neck, behind my trachea (that one is the lemon), and in my left armpit — all three on lymph node areas, not on organs. These are good things.

I have no B symptoms — things like unexplained weight loss, severe night sweats, and an unexplained high temperature. They asked me for details about my recent weight loss, but agreed that it seems more likely related to running three times a week and entirely changing my diet while nursing a baby, than to the lymphoma. Also, the weight loss stopped in the summer, and I’ve been stable since then. My lack of symptoms is what makes me A instead of B. That’s another good thing.

My bone marrow biopsy was negative, so there is no trace of lymphoma in my bone marrow. My bloodwork all came back clear, so I don’t have any additional health problems that could complicate treatment.

Later, I saw the cardiologist, who had me hooked up to a holter monitor early this week. He is reassured that my heart is fine, my heart surgery ten years ago fixed the arrhythmia issue, and the Adriamycin (a chemo drug that can hurt your heart) should not be a problem. He was a very pleasant and very tall fellow.

Chemotherapy details

My chemotherapy was due to start tomorrow, then got pushed to next week since they thought they still needed to see my biopsy results. I could have moved it back to tomorrow because they already had the earlier biopsy results, but I asked to keep it on Monday instead, so I can hang out with the girls for Halloween. This is not a problem. A few more days will not cause any issues.

I’ll be doing a chemotherapy called ABVD, which is named after the four drugs they’ll be giving me.

A = Doxorubicin Hydrochloride (Adriamycin)
B = Bleomycin
V = Vinblastine Sulfate
D = Dacarbazine

They have fun side effects like making your hair fall out, making your taste buds forget how to taste, sometimes giving you mouth sores, and making you nauseous. And so I also have a collection of anti-nausea drugs called antiemetics. Somewhere in there is a drug that may cause hiccups, too. Life is going to get interesting for the next while.

Because I’m stage 2A with no B symptoms and in good health, I’m going to have four cycles of chemotherapy — which means about four months of treatment. It is the lower range of time for chemo. That’s not so bad. I can handle four months. I could have handled six months, too, but four is better.

And now I have one last weekend to do fun things like Halloween with my family, and eating super tasty foods, before I start chemo. I like them, and they will help me get through all of this.

My lovely family (photo by Jennifer Rodriguez)
My lovely family (photo by Jennifer Rodriguez)