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Dustin LindenSmith

father | musician | writer

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further thinking on the topic

I should begin with a short Bio 30 review (but be warned that I skipped a lot of that class in grade 12): Lymph nodes are collections of lymphatic tissue. The lymphatic system distributes white blood cells throughout the body. White blood cells (e.g. B-cells, T-cells) are the main building blocks of our immune system. When we get an infection (viral or bacterial), those white blood cells come to the rescue in force.

In my case, it would seem that a lymph node in my nasopharynx became inflamed, for lack of a better term, as a result of fighting acute mono (I think that extra white blood cells were being produced to fight the infection). The inflammation grew to be so large that it prevented drainage of my nasal passages. This caused my sinus cavities to fill, which most likely caused the excruciating headaches I had when this whole thing started.

Step One was the biopsy, and it revealed that I had abnormal lymphocytes, apparently caused by non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. The presence of such a large mass in the nasopharynx also suggested most emphatically that this was some form of lymphoma. In probably more than 99 cases in a hundred, those two circumstances would result in an automatic diagnosis for lymphoma, such as it did for me.

But the first biopsy results were ultimately inconclusive, which automatically postponed treatment and required a second biopsy. And we now know that the second biopsy proved that there was no lymphoma. Therefore, since I tested positive for acute mono in a blood test and since the Epstein-Barr virus was present in the biopsy tissue, it was concluded that the mass must have been caused by acute mono.

The trippiest thing about this is that I now know that I never had any cancer at all! There's a big difference between having been miraculously spared by cancer and never having had it at all. I'm not a cancer survivor, I'm just a diagnosis survivor!

(I'm also thinking of fey, who just got some bad news about her lymphoma and has yet another challenge to face with her illness. She's got a really strong will.)

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lordsluk September 20th, 2004
is a diagnosis survivor a diagnosis? :)

kumaraka September 21st, 2004
Woooooo hooooooooo!

Congratulations on being a survivor! What do you think you learned from this whole experience?

iamom September 21st, 2004
Great question, Doc. I think the most important things I learned are not to freak out about bad news, and not to act too quickly if something isn't as it appears. I always had trouble believing that I was sick, both because of denial but also because I didn't feel like I was sick. This was an affirmation for me to trust my instincts more than anything. And also to remain calm in the face of bad news.

How's med school treating you, man?

fey October 5th, 2004
You know, it's weird. For the first two months after I got the news, I was really depressed. I mean, really, really depressed. People were worried, I was so depressed. *I* was worried. I didn't think I could handle it again. Last year was a real growing experience, I know, but it was also really awful and hard. The big thing that kept me going was that I sort of told myself, it better work, because it really sucked. That's what got me through it, that I'd be cured.

I was in the process of figuring out school, and my book writing was going well, my job was happy, I loved our new apartment, and I had moved onward and was really enjoying life.

And then cancer showed up, with hat in hand, like the bad seed relative that keeps calling you up for bail money you have to take from your groceries.

Then I was really angry. I mean, full on furious. Like a rage that coursed through my veins, kind of fury. Like intrinsic fury.

Now, it's weird, I'm looking at this as just the third phase in my cure mostly with a lot of peace and high hopes and optimism. I'm going to be literally transformed from the inside out, which is a huge metaphysical metaphor and hugely significant. Like a rite of fire, from the inside out.

Although sometimes I get kind of depressed and or angry when I think about things, the trick is to change perspective when that happens. I always say, much of what we deal with in life can be handled with a little perspective.

For one thing, besides all the growing and experience I'm getting, it could be a whole lot worse. A whole lot worse.

Really. For example, only five or so years ago, my prognosis would have been much grimmer than it is right now, because this technology they're using on me is very new. Only 12 other people with HD have done this before me. I'm like a pioneer. So I guess bad news, good news, it's all relative.

And damn, it'll make a great story in the book, don't you think?


PS--I don't even know if it's a matter of will. I'm not sure, for example, that I would be going through with this if I was all alone in the world. I have a lot to live for, both in goals and the people in my life, who are amazing. I owe it to them to at least try.

Also, now it's kind of personal, and I really can't let this thin win, now, can I? It would be...



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