How did you find out you have cancer, Buck?
It all started in October of 2001 when I thought I was coming down with a cold or the flu.
I get that every year in the fall when itís going around, so I
did what I always do. I
bought some over the counter meds like Alka-Seltzer Plus and Comtrex.
Only this time they didnít seem to work.
Instead of feeling better, I just felt worse every day. A lot
So I went
to see a doctor. I figured
Iím getting older, maybe I need some Ďrealí medicine. The doctor said I had acute sinusitis and gave me some
antibiotics she had there in the clinic to save me a prescription
cost. She tells me Iíll
feel better in a couple of days, but take them till they run out in 7 to
A week or
so later, Iím back at the clinic looking for help again.
I feel worse than ever. The
meds the first doc gave me havenít done a thing to relieve me and Iím
definitely getting worse. I can't remember ever feeling this sick
before. It's way beyond any cold or flu I can ever recall having
before. I can't even think straight anymore.
I can't remember simple things from moment to moment.
doctor examines me and says that maybe they just ďteased itĒ with the
last meds, and this time heís prescribing the ďMac DaddyĒ of
antibiotics. Again Iím
told Iíll feel better in a few days, but take them till they run out.
I make my way down to a drug store near the house, pay the $130 or
so for the scripts, go home and do as the doctor says.
pills are strong and I feel like Iím getting my ass kicked.
I donít know if itís the sickness or the cure that's doing it
to me, but I feel myself getting nothing but worse.
At this point I canít even eat.
I cannot get down any food, nor is anything coming out the other
end of me. Itís all liquids
only, mostly orange juice, sunny D and stuff like that. The really
weird thing is that I'm craving something good to eat, but if you were to
set it in front of me I wouldn't even be able to take a bite.
through chills and sweats. Hard,
wet, night sweats that wake me every 20 minutes or so absolutely soaked.
This is something I've never experienced before. Night sweats -
sure, but not like this; Not on this scale. This is WAY beyond
anything I've had before. I mean I am soaked. The bed and
pillows and linen are soaked. It's really nasty. Nothing I can do with
the temperature of the house, what Iím wearing or anything else seems to
matter. I get them no matter
what. On top of that, I've got a backache that just won't quit or
let me get comfortable in any position.
I try to
go to work a couple of times over the period of time that Iím going
through this, but the people I work with tell me to get the hell out of
there, saying I look like death. They look alarmed when I look into
their eyes. One of them tells me that he doesn't want to worry me,
but I really look like someone who's about to die and I need to get some
good medical attention. He points out that one minute I'm sitting
there sweating like I just worked out and the next minute I'm wearing a
parka and shivering.
I go back
to the clinic long before I run out of meds again.
I tell the doc the meds are not working at all and I can see no reason to
keep taking them. There's something else going on here and they need
to figure out what it is. I compare myself to one of those batteries
that you press both ends of to see how much juice is left in them. I
tell the doc when you press both ends of my battery, it doesn't light up
at all anymore... it's completely dead. I can literally and
physically feel my body shutting down entirely.
Iím really starting to get kind of scared.
docís office, I get a pain in my chest; a bad pain.
I describe it to them as a little guy in my chest with a pair of
scissors in each hand cutting everything in sight.
Itís bad. They treat
it like a heart attack and the next thing you know, they're feeding me
nitro-glycerin pills and then Iím in an ambulance
headed for the cardiac unit at Fort
next 30 hours or so, they check out my ticker with all the knowledge and tests
theyíve got. To
relieve the pain they gave me a shot of Morphine and WOW was that
something! I didn't like it at all! It just took over my whole
body instantly. Yeah, the pain was gone, but so was I. It was
pretty scary to me, and I hope not to ever have Morphine again anytime
They put me on a treadmill that almost killed me, and some wise-ass
doctor that runs the machine tells me as I practically fall off of it,
ďYouíre kinda out of shape, ainít ya?Ē
It was a snide comment, and I took it as such.
It pissed me off. Iíd
been pretty sick for weeks without an answer from the world of medicine,
and now this creepís giving me crap.
I wasnít in the mood. Unfortunately,
I wasnít strong enough to put up any resistance or defense to the
remark. That pissed me off
finally decided my heart was fine, they turned me loose and I took a cab
home. That was on a Friday
evening. I thought they told
me as I left to see the doctor again on Monday, but I was so out of it I
misunderstood. They told me
to see the doctor the next day, on Saturday.
Anyway, I lay in my house in Knoxville dieing for the next 2 days
and then Monday morning went back to the clinic pleading for help.
time, I really was nearly gone. I
barely knew where I was. I had
written a note, made a few copies and posted it in various places in my
house and kept one in my pocket. It basically explained that I've
been very sick lately and if anything should happen and they find this
note, these are my last wishes. I could barely walk at that
point. Each step was a struggle for me.
At the clinic, they
examined me, asked a lot of questions, drew blood, made an X-ray or two and told me to come back the next day.
I did. They repeated
the blood and X-ray routine, gave up on a diagnosis and put me in Fort
Sanders Hospital again.
Day by day,
I got worse and worse. It
wasnít long before I was totally out of it.
I did my best to answer the docs and nurses that went in and out
with my right name and info to show that I was still in the land of the
living and mentally competent, but it was getting harder to keep it up.
I remember being alarmed inside that I could no longer remember relatively
simple things anymore and was answering with, "I don't remember"
and, "I don't know." I felt like I was dieing and they didnít know why. Neither
did I. They said it didn't make any sense, but they always had
something else to try or test next.
using every test they could think of.
Drawing lots of blood, Cat scans, X-rays, ultrasounds, measuring
everything they could measure. But
they didn't know what was doing me in and it showed. They were confused. They
didnít know what was going on.
They drew so much blood and so often that it was getting harder for them
to get any. They speculated that my veins were collapsing.
They'd stick me 3, 4 or 5 times, then someone else would give it a try,
until they were successful at getting some more of the juice from my arms
Various doctors would come in one by one every day and tell me what they
were seeing and finding, giving me updates on my condition. It was
never good. This was down, that was down, something else that should
be down was up. Nothing, it seemed, was in the "normal"
range. They watched my blood platelet count drop steadily to the
point of having to give me a transfusion. They said it would
"perk me up" but I don't recall feeling much better at all
Instead, I felt weaker and worse every day. Mostly I slept. I
didn't have the energy to do anything else. Whenever I was awake, I
did my best to keep a good attitude, smile and be cooperative.
Inside, I was pretty sure that I was laying on my deathbed; that I was
living my last days or hours right then. They were doing all they
could, and that's all I could ask for.
days after I arrived in the hospital, a doctor shot some Demerol into me, rolled me over onto my
left side in bed, drilled a hole in my pelvis from behind and scooped out
some bone marrow. I didn't know what he was looking for. It
was just another thing for them to do to me in a long line of things they
were doing to try and figure out what was killing me. Then, too weak
to do anything else, I passed out again.
last thing I remember until I woke up a couple of days later with a sudden
healthy appetite and the sudden regained knowledge of where and who I was.
I was actually surprised to wake up at all, let alone lucid. I scarfed breakfast like a ravenous dog, wondering at the sudden
change in my condition. Donít get me wrong, I was still a whipped puppy, but I had
now eaten for what seemed like the first time in forever.
while later the bone marrow doctor came in and asked if I remembered the
conversation weíd had the day before.
I had to admit I had no knowledge of anything that had happened the
day before. He told me
thatís pretty much what he thought, so he went over it with me again.
It was a
ďgood newsĒ ďbad newsĒ conversation.
The good news was that they had finally discovered what the problem
was and could treat the symptoms, which is why I suddenly had my appetite
and mental faculties back; They had put me on some drugs the day before
when the biopsy had come back. The
bad news was that it was something called Lymphoma; aka: Cancer of the
lymph nodes and it had progressed into my bone marrow, where they found
it. I learned later that having it in my bone marrow put me in stage
4 of the disease. I also learned that the disease has 4 stages.
didnít get real deep into it at that point, and I didnít know what
kind of questions to ask about it yet, so I asked if they had a book or
pamphlet about it that I could read and he said he would see what he could
find. It was delivered a
little later and I read it to see what the implications were.
Overall, it seemed like something I could beat or get through,
giving me 7 or 8 out of 10 chances of not dieing from it, so I took heart,
got a good attitude and hung on. I learned later that was a little
misleading, but it was the right thing for me to read at that point, so it
was a good thing.
The Oncologist then decided to get a biopsy of one of my lymph nodes as
well. Rather than get a whole node though, he decided to just get
some cells from one to look at. He said he wanted to just confirm
the bone marrow results. So they took a little needle stab just
below my jaw on my right and pulled out a sample of cells from a lymph
node to examine. A few days later the doctor said that the biopsy on
the retrieved cells
confirmed the lymphoma he'd diagnosed from the bone marrow.
Next: Back to Detroit
Guest Book entries >