The follow-up: It wasn't a relapse af...


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The follow-up: It wasn't a relapse afterall

June 2, 2017 | by Adriana Lombardo

Prior to my hip replacement surgery, I was told I had relapsed and would be needing a bone marrow transplant.

My world had changed.

I thought I was “free” from all treatment and that I would be able to move forward after my hip replacement.

Friday March 31st, the date of my surgery, came and went successfully.

Of course, I needed a blood transfusion a few days after surgery, my eighteenth to date, because my hemoglobin had dropped to 76. It wasn’t too big of a concern since it is normal to have a low hemoglobin after surgery, but we had done it do be sure.

Three weeks after my surgery, April 18, I was scheduled to see my oncologist to go over results and discuss the next steps.

I was extremely nervous.

You know how it is waiting for test results: the anxiety creeping up even when you’re trying to live in the moment and enjoy life. It disrupts everything.

Your life is put on hold until you see your doctor. No plans to be made. Nothing to look forward to. The unknown hanging over you like a dark cloud, waiting for that downpour just so the cloud can pass.

Never in these two years was I nervous for a doctor’s visit. Never. I always had the confidence going in that everything was going to be okay – this time was different. I didn’t know what to expect.

My parents, sister, and I had arrived early at Princess Margaret that morning to do blood work.

I was still on my crutches and carrying around my wedge cushion, but I needed to go to this appointment.

I could have easily postponed it, but I needed to see my doctor and hear what he had to say come hell or high water.

It felt like forever waiting to see my doctor.

Although I had access to My Patient Portal, I used all my will power to not check it and just hear the results from my oncologist himself.

Finally, it was time.

I held the rosary tightly in my hand – so tight that if I squeezed the beads any tighter, I would have broken it.

He walked in very calmly and looked at me. After a pause of looking over the paper he held in his hands, he looked up at me and said, “Have you seen the results?” To which I replied almost scared and said, “No…I was waiting for you to tell us.”

“Well they look great!” he exclaimed.

The biggest sigh of relief came over me with a rush of emotions. I felt tears spring to my eyes. The warmth rise in my face. So many thoughts going through my head.

He sat down and explained that my old hip they took while in surgery that was sent off to pathology to see if any cancer cells were evident, showed that the results came back unremarkable, which basically means “good” in layman’s terms.

My dad and sister were in the corner of the room and I heard them getting emotional.

My mom next to me also was crying, but then began with her questions, of course. “So, what’s next? Where do we go from here?”

He answered, “Well, she is iron deficient which is common to anyone who has undergone chemotherapy so she is to continue with her iron supplements until further notice. I will be sending off the bone marrow aspiration results which we took March 17 and do further testing to confirm these results.”

He looked over at me, “For now, I’d like to monitor you once a month with blood work just to be sure. Come back in four weeks’ time to confirm any results.”

I had to release the pressure from my eyes that I was holding onto all this time. The tears ran down my face in an instant and I looked over at my oncologist, but I had no words. He got up and left the room. Again, I would wait to see him in a months’ time this time with a little more confidence.

 May 16 felt so far away. This waiting game was starting to get annoying but I had to appreciate the fact that others whom I’ve met waited even longer for test results. I definitely learned how to be patient in this trying time.

The days leading up to it weren’t as bad as it was the first time but in life, anything can happen, so I made sure to keep my cool.

My mom, sister, and I arrived early for blood work.

Same routine. Different day.

We waited to get called in to see my oncologist and luckily, the wait time was a lot faster.

As we sat in the room waiting, a female doctor walked by and took my chart. She examined it in the doorway then proceeded to enter the room.

She introduced herself and pulled up a chair.

A rush of anxiety came over me because her face was extremely serious.

She looked at me very quizzically and asked, “How are you feeling? Tired? Night sweats? Nausea? Lack of appetite? Shortness of breath?”

The look on her face made me feel as though I should really think my answer through.

With uncertainty I replied, “I feel fine. No symptoms. Nothing.”

She was really examining me at this point.

My mom interjected in the silence and said, “Okay, we’ve been on pins and needles for quite some time now. Can you please tell us her blood results?”

The doctor sat up in her seat and shared a smile while looking at the sheet she held tightly in her hands, “Oh yes! The numbers look fabulous! Have you been taking anything to assist them? Any medication?”

I heard my mom and sister let out a huge sigh of relief as they dropped their shoulders. My sister was holding onto the wall for dear life.

“No, I’ve just been on iron supplements since March.”

I was shaking. She looked surprised – almost as if a miracle had been performed right in front of her own eyes.

“Well, they seem to have recovered on their own. I do believe that the antibiotic you were taking to prevent pneumonia before made the results appear abnormal. I will call your oncologist in here to discuss if you have any questions you’d like to ask him.”

Silence hung in the air as we waited for him to come in.

No offence to the doctor, but I felt more comfortable hearing such news from my oncologist himself.

He walked in with a smile from ear to ear.

He explained, in brief, that since we all have cancer cells living in us – those of which develop and those of which do not – the bone marrow aspiration gathered a sample containing cells which resulted in the sample appearing to be abnormal. Further tests which were performed showed no evidence of disease.

I looked him dead in the eye when he had finished and asked, “Does this mean I am still in remission?”

As he nodded and smiled, he replied, “Yes. You are still in remission. However, I still want to monitor you once a month to check your blood work, that way we will all have peace of mind. As for your iron deficiency, it is reversible. I will check those levels at your next visit so for now, continue taking your supplements.”

I was trembling. The female doctor stood by the door excited for me and the news I had just received.

I got up and hugged my oncologist. I know he didn’t change these results, but he gave me the news I was waiting to hear.

I have the utmost respect for this man and always will.

Of course, this scare brought sorrow, pain, and doubt. But it also carried something beautiful: vulnerability within all of my loved ones around me.

I felt the love and support while waiting for the news. I felt cared for.

This didn’t teach me anything else but to live life and appreciate all that is given to you. Appreciate your health. Care for yourself. YOU are your own advocate. If something doesn’t seem right, speak up. Ask. Sometimes the unknown is a lot scarier than it seems. 

 

           






Adriana Lombardo

Life after Leukemia


I'm a 20 year old A.L.L. survivor who recently just finished treatment in January 2017. Follow me on this new chapter in my life as I prepare for a hip replacement that is much needed after steroids have caused damage to my joints. This is my life after cancer. 





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