I’ve talked about my life with lymphoma and I’ve published a crochet pattern to make your own lymph node but what the heck is lymphoma and what does a lymph node do?
First, let’s take a look at lymph nodes.
Your lymph nodes are found all over your body, in fact there are over 600! There are two on either side of your neck just under your jaw. When you’re sick, oftentimes your doctor will touch them to feel if they’re swollen. You also have some under your arm pits, over your heart (where my tumor is located), in your groin and behind your knees. Basically, they’re everywhere!
The nodes themselves are covered by a fibrous capsule and inside there are thin follicles which house your white blood cells. When you’re sick, your white blood cells bind to viruses, germs and foreign bodies and attack them. Lymphocytes (the blue French knots) are a type of white blood cell that patrol your body in fluid called lymph. The afferent vessels bring lymph into the node. When the lymph nodes are ‘activated’ those lymphocytes exit the node through the efferent vessel and circulate around.
What is lymphoma?
There are two primary types of lymphocytes, B cells and T cells. Lymphoma is starts with a change to your lymphocytes (either one) where they start to reproduce uncontrollably but don’t exit through the efferent vessels. My B cells were the ones rapidly dividing and stuck in those follicles mentioned above. Much like an overfilled balloon, my mediastinal node (the one right above your heart and lungs) kept expanding and pressing against my heart and lungs. That left me with shortness of breath and I had some “B” symptoms like night sweats, a deep and dry cough, tiredness/dizziness and frequent nose bleeds.
After my emergency surgery and recovery, my oncologist Dr Anthony Mato, did a bone marrow biopsy. That involves a large needle to extract your bone marrow, the spongy tissue inside your bones that produces red blood cells. After an examination under a microscope and mapping of my genes, he was able to determine that there was neither cancerous activity in my bone marrow nor did I have any genetic reason for lymphoma. That and the images from a PET scan showed that all activity was above my diaphragm and isolated in two spots. I was at Stage 2 with B symptoms.
After staging, I was given a pretty good prognosis and we agreed that an aggressive chemo regime (Hyper CVAD) was my best bet at survival without possibly needing radiation or a stem cell transplant. Two years later, I haven’t needed any further treatment!
So what can you do for me right now? You can purchase a copy of my crocheted lymph node pattern and help me raise funds for Stupid Cancer. You can also donate blood and/or get placed on the stem cell transplant list via the Red Cross in the US. And for further information you can check out this free PDF about Hodgkin’s and Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma published by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.