2005-09-18 - 1:03 a.m.
I never understood why it is okay to use the words "positive" and "negative" as medical termonology to navigate the results of a biospy.
When I found out my biopsies were "positive" for cancer, I could find there to be absolutely nothing positive about any of it. Finding out you've tested positive for cancer...or any disease for that matter, is an extremely negative experience. Needless to say, it's just a bad play on words. A real mindfuck, if you'll excuse the expression.
On Feburary 19, 1999 I had my first biospy. The mass, which turned out not to be the thymus gland but rather a lymph node, was found to be malignant. Most lymph nodes are the size of a kidney bean, whereas the one in question was somewhere between the size of a baseball and a softball. To remove the tumor, Dr. Cullen performed a radical surgery called a thorocotomy.
A thorocotomy is a life-threatening surgery. An incision was started near the middle of my back that extended to somewhere slightly underneath my right breast. The skin is pulled away and the ribs are cracked open, exposing the vital necessities of the chest cavity. Dr. Cullen removed the whole tumor, though we later found this was an unnecessary procedure. That, in fact oncologists prefer the tumor to remain in tact. Over the six month period in which chemotherapy is infused, periodic scans will reveal the tumor shrinking in size, showing a favorable response to chemotherapy.
I've often wondered why a person as educated as Dr. Cullen would have threatened my life to remove that tumor, leaving me with a scar that creeps around the right half of my person when it wasn't necessary. Is a procedure like a thorocotomy the royal flush of the medical world? ($$$...?)
After pathology reviewed the slides obtained from my tumor, it was determined that I had a rare blood cancer, called Hodgkin's Disease. Hodgkin's Disease is so rare that it is diagnosed in less than 8,000 people a year. It is a auto-immune disease, a cancer of the lymphatic tissue. The lymph system consists of lymph nodes, the thymus gland, the spleen and the bone marrow. Fortunatly, despite it's rarity, Hogdkin's Disease is a cancer with a relatively high cure rate. This was a focal point for my devastated parents. No parent in their right mind is able to accept the possibility that their children may surpass them in death. The cure rate of childhood Hodgkin's was over 90%, and this is what my family and I clung to. Ninety percent is not just a remission rate, but total cure. Meaning that I would follow medical protocol, (I.E. chemotherapy) and nine chances out of ten, this cancer would never return.