In the beginning…

There was a bump.

Well, the story began in September 2018. Eli, age 10, had been complaining about leg pain. When I asked where it hurt, he indicated the front underwear line of his left leg. I told him he was growing out of his underwear and we would go shopping for a larger size soon. With nine children, eight still living at home, this was easier said than done. So Eli continued to complain intermittently for about a week.

Then, on the weekend, probably Sunday, September 9th, Eli said something about a bump being the source of his discomfort. I immediately checked it out. I speculated that it could be a hernia, but since it was in the wrong location for an inguinal hernia, I checked out diagrams of possible hernia locations and concluded it must be a femoral hernia. I warned Eli that, if I was right, he would probably have to have surgery.

September 10th saw us at the pediatrician’s office. His doctor checked it out and said it was a swollen lymph node not a hernia. He asked Eli a bunch of questions that were to become familiar in their repetition later, but never elicited a positive response then or now. “Cat scratch fever” was considered, cancer was mentioned, but considered unlikely, and another doctor was brought into the room to consult on what was going on with the errant lymph node. It was measured at 1 cm.

The doctors concluded that it was probably a condition that happens where calcifications form in the node after an infection and resolves on its own after weeks or months. Our pediatrician said to keep an eye on it and come back if anything changed. Then added that I should call in a month, regardless, to let him know how it was. Eli and I bought a different style and size of underwear on the way home to minimize the irritation, since, when questioned with more detail, Eli wasn’t really in pain, just bothered by the contact between his clothes and the bump.

I continued to monitor the node, but didn’t really expect any changes other than it to eventually go away. By the middle of October, things seemed mostly the same, but Eli had noticed a smaller, similar bump near the first. I had a hard time feeling what he was talking about, so I was inclined not to worry, but started talking about going back to the doctor for a physical to put Eli’s mind at ease.

We took a trip to visit friends October 18-20. A couple days after our return, I noticed that Eli’s lower left leg was swollen. Same leg as the original swollen lymph node. No, he hadn’t twisted his ankle or been stung by a bee or something. No, there was no pain. The skin color was normal. However, two of his brothers were distracting me that week with their twisted ankle and scraped chin, so I didn’t manage to get Eli back to the doctor that week.

The weekend came, though, and after church on Sunday, Eli changed into shorts and I saw that his whole leg was swollen. I knew there was a connection between lymph node and swelling, but there was no pain and skin color was still good. Dr. Google came up with the possibility of lymphedema, which led me to my preferred option of taking him back to his primary care doctor first thing in the morning. I liked the idea of taking him to a doctor that already knew what was going on and I didn’t want my concerns dismissed by the ramdom urgent care physician.

I had Eli prop his leg up the rest of the day. However, I was worried about what could cause lymphedema. Congenital defects, injured lymph nodes, previous cancer treatment, a tumor, etc. were listed as possible culprits. The mention of cancer led me to look up lymphoma. That’s when I started to recognize the questions previously asked by our doctor in September: night sweats, weight loss, loss of appetite, etc. None of these applied, except for swollen lymph nodes. I didn’t think this option likely yet, but I worried a little anyways.

Monday, October 29th, 8:31am: I called the pediatrician as soon as the office opened. Eli’s appointment was at 10:50am. I got the kids working on school work, then, when it was time to go, stuffed the Costco shopping list in my back pocket, made Eli bring his language arts book so we could work on it while waiting, and drove to the doctor. I went expecting to be referred to a specialist and planned on insisting on testing or something in the off chance that the doctor didn’t take it seriously. I need not have worried.

It didn’t take long before we were taken back for vitals and left in a newly decorated exam room to wait for the doctor. 29 minutes later (yes, we timed the wait for fun) the doctor came in. The patient before us had required extra time. After a quick examination, the doctor said he was very concerned and moved Eli to another room so we could talk freely. He said that it might be cancer or something else, but he didn’t know what. He told me to not break traffic laws, but to go straight to Primary Children’s Hospital ER where they had all the diagnostic tools and personnel to figure out what was going on and to expect to be kept overnight.

I couldn’t escape the real possibility of cancer this time. I did what he said and, on the drive, using the hands free capability of my Ford Transit, called my oldest daughter to let her know that I wouldn’t be coming home for the rest of the day and to get out the freezer meal my neighbor had insisted on giving me a couple days earlier. Then I called my husband and gladly accepted his offer to meet us at the ER.

To be continued…

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