When I entered the hospital earlier this month, we weren't sure what was wrong. We just knew that I had a large tumor in my chest, I lost 30+ pounds in two weeks, I couldn't breathe well, and I had night sweats like a boy who forget to do their science project the night before it was due. Added to that was a persistent cough that wouldn't go away.
After a few days, the oncologist believed that my symptoms aligned well with Hodgkin's Lymphoma. But, none of that can be certain until various biopsies are done to detect the existence of cancer cells. You can only go on inclinations. I got checked out of the hospital and my wife and I started reading about lymphoma. We bought a book, read peer-reviewed articles, and prepared ourselves with what could be bad, but certainly not devastating news. As it goes, Hodgkin's Lymphoma isn't the worst cancer one can get. It's actually one of the most treatable cancers. It's as if we won the cancer lottery (with apologies to those who have pancreatic cancer, you are in my prayers.) So, we weren't worried too much, knowing that with chemotherapy, I would be back to normal within a matter of 6-8 months. It was a blip on the radar of a long life.
After already getting a needle biopsy and having it come back inconclusive, I had another one done this week at another facility. Prior to this biopsy, we asked another oncologist if he thought that Hodgkin's Lymphoma was still probably the best guess of what could be wrong with me. He agreed. His exact words, "I see nothing here that goes against that inclination." So, we did another biopsy and hoped for the best. As the doctor told me, "We got quite a bit of tissue out your tumor. We should know for sure if it is or isn't lymphoma."
Last night, they called. There was no sign of cancer.
It was quite a surreal call. We had prepared ourselves based on what we had been told and the inclination was wrong (a quick note: I don't blame the doctors for their inclinations. They have been great. They never promised me they knew for sure, this is why they run tests. Plus, my mass/symptoms look A LOT like lymphoma. It was a good, educated guess.)
So, you may wonder, how does it feel to know that I likely do not have cancer?
Being diligent and appropriately concerned, it would not surprise me if my oncologist still wants to do a surgical biopsy. Needle biopsies are fairly accurate, but the most accurate biopsy is still going in and looking at it through surgery. I'm waiting for a call today from my oncologist to see what our next step may be.
The next question is; what can it be then? My symptoms are still with me. There is still a large mass in my chest. We still have the lost weight to deal with.
A doctor suggested to me yesterday that my condition may be congenital. It's called Bronchopulmonary Sequestration. It's a very rare disorder that is often times caught in utero. It's even more rare for an adult to have it. But, my symptoms also align with this issue. Here's a definition of BPS for those curious:
Bronchopulmonary sequestration (BPS), sometimes referred to simply as pulmonary sequestration, is a rare congenital malformation of the lower respiratory tract. It consists of a nonfunctioning mass of lung tissue that lacks normal communication with the tracheobronchial tree, and that receives its arterial blood supply from the systemic circulation.
To fix this issue, they will need to go in and remove the excess lung tissue, cauterize the blood supply, and [likely] remove part of my functioning lung. It would leave me with 1.5 lungs, which if you think about it, is better than 1 lung or 1.25 lungs. Here's a nice video of the surgery if you're interested.
On top of the BPS surgery, I'd also ask to have them remove my thyroid since they'll already be in my innards. I wonder if they can also take out any excessive fat in my belly or give me a bionic arm or James Woods' brilliant brain whilst doing the procedure. I'll ask. They'll oblige. This is how the medical profession works.
As a caution, nothing is confirmed. Like I said earlier, we may still do another biopsy and then find cancerous cells. Or, the inclination of BPS may totally be off. There's so much that the doctors don't know. But, they told me yesterday on the phone that no cancer was witnessed on the biopsy results. I'm the winner. So, as of now I:
Thank you to everyone who has prayed for my family and I. We feel tremendously blessed to know so many great people. Through this time, we've never lost site of the hope of the Resurrection. Even in more uncertainty, the hope of the Resurrection always stays with us.
ps. the winner of the 'make-Nate-laugh' award goes to Alyssa Secor with this gem, "This issue [BPS] seems to mainly be in children, wow, now Nate has a little kid lung issue and an old ladies disease." I respond with a Walt Whitman quote, “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.”