Good News! It’s Lymphoma.
Helloooooooooo Blood-Cancer.com! Can you hear me in the back? Good. So, I am Daniel P. Malito, author, columnist, and raconteur. I am new to the site, and this is my first post, so be gentle! I figured it would be best if we started with a general introduction and some hors d’oeuvres. No reason to jump in without a proper introduction, especially considering we have so much time to spend together, and a seemingly never ending parade of absurdity that comes with being ill to share.
First rheumatoid arthritis, then cancer
I have been writing for more than ten years, for sites like Creaky Joints and the Huffington Post, mostly about my escapades living with rheumatoid arthritis since I was nine years old. It’s been a long strange trip, and my RA is responsible for some of the greatest triumphs and some of the most desperate failures I have experienced in my short(ish) life. I’m sure at this point you are saying “but Dan, this is Blood-cancer.com, what does that have to do with Rheumatoid Arthritis?” Well, about six months ago, I was visited by the lymphoma fairy. Unfortunately, instead of leaving a quarter under my pillow, she left me a tumor — which is definitely worth more than a quarter. Just sayin’.
It all started with a simple bout of acid reflux that just wouldn’t quit. I tried all the usual remedies to find relief – antacids, milk, magic beans – and nothing made the pain subside. It got so bad that I wasn’t able to sleep as the burning sensation would keep me up at night. The only remedy I could find was to stop eating – so I did. As you can imagine that only made me weaker and things got much worse, and eventually I ended up in the hospital ER, feeling like my guts were about to fall out of my rear end.
Is this good news?
After two separate week-long stays in the same hospital, doctors finally saw a mass on their scans (that they had somehow missed for weeks), and that mass was apparently wrapped around my duodenum. Teachable moment - the duodenum is the tube that connects your stomach to your intestines, for those who don’t know, and apparently it’s a very important part of the system. Now, we’ll get into the specifics in a subsequent post, and trust me, so many absurd things happened on the journey to my diagnosis that we will have material to share for years to come, but eventually, after months of staying in the hospital and several false diagnoses, a doctor walked in and said “Good news! It’s lymphoma.”
So after I told the doctor that I didn’t think “good news,” meant what he thought it did, my next question, as it was for so many of us who are told that we have cancer, was “am I going to die?” With some hesitation, the doctor told me and my family that no, he was fairly sure that they’d probably be able to “knock it out” with chemotherapy. So that was good, I guess? I mean, on the scale of one to ten, “we can probably kill it with chemotherapy” falls somewhere right around “you get a free coffee when you buy a cinnamon raisin bagel.” Yay?
Fast forward a bit, and now I have what’s called aplastic large cell lymphoma with alk+ gene and cd30 cells. I know, it’s a very long name for what amounts to a lump of cells that originated in one of the lymph nodes in my abdomen. In fact, if you write the name down, it is probably longer than the actual tumor, which was only four or five centimeters. Although, they tell me it is thinning out (along with my hair), but that is mostly due to the first round of chemotherapy I’m currently surviving – because that’s what you do, you don’t get through chemo, you survive it. Then again, as enjoyable as chemo is, I can say I certainly prefer it to not being able to eat. Mostly. Hospital food’s a toss up.
Beginning to believe that I'm indestructible
Having cancer, as many of you know, is much more than just an illness. Just saying the word “cancer,” parks a heavy weight upon one’s soul, and even the distilled joy and unadulterated deliverance you feel when you become a “cancer survivor” isn’t preferable to never having fell ill at all. Be that as it may, that isn’t what the fates had in mind when they weaved my story into the tapestry of history, and you know what – that’s ok. At this point I’m beginning to think I’m legitimately indestructible, I’ve survived more injuries, emergencies, and near-death scares than a family of poorly trained trapeze artists. Yikes.
So now you know me a little bit, and you know why I’m writing for Blood-Cancer.com. What you don’t know is the long journey that brought me here, and I’m eager to share all of it with you. It won’t be pretty, though, and it won’t be over fast. It’s going to be long and poignant and crazy and sad and angry and every other adjective you can think of. But don’t worry, I do have some experience in talking about the worst things imaginable and still making people smile – and you won’t be alone, I’ll be right here with you the entire time, I promise. Why? Because that’s who I am, and now that we’ve been introduced, I know we’ll hit it off. Talk soon.
What type of blood cancer are you or your loved one diagnosed with?