We returned to the Odette Cancer Clinic at Sunnybrook Hospital last month for a follow up bone marrow biopsy and also an emergency lymph node biopsy. He had nodes almost double in size on both sides of his neck. When the neck surgeon examined Mark’s swollen nodes he decided to perform an excision, not an aspiration as I was expecting. Right in front of me he cut Mark’s neck open and removed part of a lymph node – not the whole thing as it was too large. The doctor did not like what he took out.
After 10 agonizing days we finally got a call from Mark’s doctor at Baycrest saying she needed to talk to us right away. The results were in and it was not good. Also, the hematologist at Sunnybrook wanted to see the entire family, except for Mark, first thing the next morning. Nobody likes to receive that call.
To put it simply, the medicine did not work. The disease progressed. Mark is now diagnosed with incurable Acute Myeloid Leukemia.
The lymph node that was removed is called a chloroma, a solid leukemic tumor, which is rare. Even in a healthy man the prognosis is grim. The doctor has given him just weeks as this cancer is very aggressive. He has a new lump in his armpit now. He is slowly losing weight and his energy level is declining. He is conscious and most days he is getting out of bed and up into his wheelchair. We’ve taken him outside on the last few warm days that we’ve had. Sometimes he just feels crummy and he doesn’t know why. Mark was told of his condition and he bravely accepted it. However, because of his messed up short term memory, we’re not sure how much he has remembered and I’m not about to remind him. There is no point in asking why this has happened to him because there is no acceptable answer. We try to make each day as meaningful as possible and enjoy and appreciate his presence. He is loved and cared for and we make sure he knows it.
We’ve decided to treat him in a palliative way. There is no cure and we don’t wish for him to suffer in any way. So far he hasn’t required much in the way of pain killers. He has survived more than 3 weeks post diagnosis as of this writing. We don’t know for sure how or when the end will come, but Mark is finishing his physical journey.
We are not accepting any more visitors now, except for immediate family and the regular close friends, and those who have already made arrangements to see us. This is family time now. Thanks for understanding.
“It’s a terrible thing to watch someone die. We are angry and desolate, consumed with hate for this disease. It doesn’t help that we have silently sworn to keep up appearances. Things are about to change and never be the same, and it isn’t a quick flick of fate’s wrist but a slow, wrenching turn, as if the power steering has gone out.” – Carol Radziwill, “What Remains”