It was the first few days of March 1994 when I had a big change in my life. I had some bad lower back pain that I thought was from picking up some heavy boxes at work. I went to a back doctor who took xrays and thought I had pulled some muscles. I got my prescriptions filled and went home.
The next morning I woke up and couldn’t see out of one eye. I could still see enough to call the doctor I had seen the previous day. He told me nothing that he prescribed could do that and that I need to get to my primary doctor right away. I still had some senses about me and knew enough not to drive. So I called my Mom and asked her to come get me, just as any 21 year old guy who needs help would do.
We went to my doctor, he put me in a wheelchair and pushed me across the hall to an eye doctor, totally skipping any exam rooms at my Doctor’s office. They both looked in my eyes and saw swelling from my brain. They gave me the choice of calling an ambulance or having my Mom take me to the hospital. We were only a few miles from the hospital so either choice would get me there in the same amount of time.
I was poked, tested, blood taken, every thing they could think to do to their new human pin cushion. I answered all kinds of questions and had a spinal tap. The next thing I remember was waking up in a hospital room and was totally blind.
Until the point where I woke up and couldn’t see out of one eye, I always had perfect vision, never needed glasses.
They continued to test fluids and tried their best to figure out what was going on with me. I was told that they saw the swelling in my head while I was in the emergency room and they were able to stop the swelling. I was very thankful for this because who knows if I’d even be here today if the swelling continued and more damage was done. I learned that the swelling damaged the optic nerves.
I remember thinking that the blindness really didn’t bother me. I knew there was stuff out there that allowed blind people to use a computer. I learned about that by watching one of those late night community interest shows that is on at 5 am, back when I had an overnight job at an alarm company. That stuck in my brain, if I ever go blind at least I can still use a computer.
More testing and more spinal taps as the team of doctors tried to figure out what was going on. Samples of my spinal fluid were sent to local university hospitals and they had never seen those type of cells before. It took sending a sample to the Mayo clinic for someone to figure it out. They told me I had Primary Central Nervous System Lymphoma complicated by Lymphomatous Meningitis .
I was told out of all of the people in the world with lymphoma, less than one percent have the type that I had. Because of this I was given a 1 in 10 chance of living up to 6 months, nothing past that point.
That was in March 1994, 20 years ago.
My health went up and down as I faught the cancer. I started strong radiation treatments, actually before they had the diagnosis. They knew it was something cancer related and started treating me right away. I had radiation from the top of my head to the bottom of my spine. They tried a few chemo treatments but between my health and the effects of the radiation, that just wasn’t a good idea at the time.
I started having more good days than bad days and eventually I was finally home for good after about a total of two and a half months of being in the hospital that year.
I started drinking a herbal tea that my Aunt Mary learned about. Its Flor Essence tea and I drank the bottled kind we bought from a local health food store. It didn’t have a bad taste and I drank it 3 times a day. A few months later I went back for testing and they couldn’t find a trace of cancer in my body. I can’t say it was one thing or another that got rid of my cancer, I like to think it was all of the things combined. My positive outlook, support from family and the many friends who visited me in the hospital and at home, the radiation treatments and the tea.
I’ve had many great experiences since that happened, gone many places, and even fell in love and got married. I’m as healthy as I can be. I had gastric bypass surgery and for the first time in my life am at a healthy weight. I saw my oncologist in 2004 and he said I’m great and no need for any future follow ups.
I’m still blind but that never has bothered me. Back 20 years ago when all of that stuff was going on I was more concerned with what caused the blindness. I knew being blind wouldn’t kill me but knew the cancer sure could.