October 2014

Trev-MUNils_trevmun wrote
on October 3rd, 2013 at 05:57 pm
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Cancer, one of the worst birthday presents.

Well, guys, it's confirmed. I have cancer. Hodgkin's Lymphoma. What a present to get for my 30th birthday, huh? In the same year as my mom's death, at that ...

Here's a rundown of the past few weeks. After the initial CT scan on September 11 revealed I did indeed have swollen masses in my neck, I had a followup appointment with my internist on the 18th, where he gave me a copy of the report.

It was worse than it sounded over the phone. It's not all in my neck. The "larger mass" they saw "behind" my swollen neck lymph nodes is actually in my chest lymph cavity (an anterior superior mediastinal mass) and it's larger than 10 centimeters in measurement. Long story short, on top of the large lumps in my neck I can feel, I have a grapefruit-sized sheet draped over the top of my heart and greater vessels.

On the 23rd I had more extensive CT scans to determine if I had more tumors in my body, and if there was any signs of organ invasion or metastasis. I made sure to get the report back ASAP; thankfully, the rest of my body is clean (for now).

On the 27th I had a biopsy. Not a needle biopsy; they put me under, cut me open and took out several lymph nodes for analysis. It was only today, after making repeated phone calls throughout the week, that I got a response back confirming what I suspected was going on with me.

I'm being referred to a local oncologist to set up an appointment, get a more precise prognosis and staging (I'm predicting Stage II unfavorable because it's in two places and fits the "bulky" definition) and discuss treatment options. Hodgkin's Lymphoma is actually a cancer with a very high cure rate, something like 80%+. However, it's still Russian Roulette; if the tumors don't respond to treatment (it can happen) or if they return, my days will be pretty much numbered.

For now, I've been looking into my options. Since I have a tumor in front of my heart, I really don't want to get standard radiation therapy since that will irradiate my heart, lungs, and other healthy tissues as much as the cancer itself. I may see about flying down to Houston to get treated at MD Anderson, where they have Pencil-Scanning Proton Beam Therapy, a very accurate form of radiation therapy that uses protons to deposit radiation right within the tumor, causing much less collateral damage.

However, proton beam therapy is way more expensive. And even though I now have insurance and MD Anderson is in my insurance provider's network, I still have to pay 20% of the total cost of whatever Blue Cross Blue Shield haggles with the hospital. I've already spent several hundreds of dollars just to get this prognosis. Since I'm a near-max load full time student, I have no means of income, and the entire cost of treatment as well as flying down to Houston and staying for several months could easily dwarf what money has been left to me.

That's not even considering I still nave to pay for tuition, books, room and board and all the other university fees, and I HAVE to remain a student in order to keep my insurance plan.

So financially, I'm in a bad spot. While I've kept my teachers and professors informed and discussed possible options for distance learning if I go to Houston, I may not have the money to ensure I get the safest possible treatment while still having enough money to continue my studies. MD Anderson may have payment plans to break down the full expense, but even then, there are presently a lot of unknowns.

Things look kinda bleak for me at the moment.