Immediately after a bad case of poison ivy that heavily involved the skin of
my right orbit in the Summer of 2001 I had swelling and bulging of my R. eye
along with drooping of the R. eyelid that had remained until recent treatment.
Every summer since, the dermatitis associated with poison ivy has
come back. Two summers ago I went to a doctor for treatment after the dermatitis had done its' worst and last summer I could "feel" the poison ivy
effect coming again so I went for earlier treatment and halted the dermatitis with prednisone. The poison ivy issue may be one big "red
herring" but the coincidence is compelling.
By the end of last summer I decided to approach my doctor and complain about
the cosmetic defect involving my R eye. He hadn't noticed it until I drew it
to his attention. He didn't seem too concerned as I only had a cosmetic
complaint. He was more concerned about my back; that's been my main health
issue for most of my life (but that's for another list).
He sent me to a plastic surgeon that asked a few questions and said he
wanted a CAT scan. A few weeks later the CAT scan showed a rather troublesome lesion that occupied most of the orbit. He gave me the CAT scan
and immediately referred me to another plastic surgeon at Sunnybrook hospital in Toronto.
The CAT scan was passed on from him to an
ophthalmologist. All three doctors were immediately impressed with the
lesion but they all remarked that whatever it was likely wasn't cancer as it
wasn't behaving like cancer. The lesion was happily co-existing with all
ocular structures. All it was doing was causing proptosis of the eye (bulging).
Before they were willing to do anything else at that point they wanted an
MRI. A non-emergency MRI places a patient on a waiting list in Ontario's
socialist health care system that is anywhere from 6 to 18 months long!
(they are acting to improve this, btw). I wasn't about to wait; I'm 42,
self-employed in the pipe organ business and have ........7 children.......... the oldest is 10!
I got on the internet and found that I could get an MRI in nearby Buffalo,
NY for about $750 CAD. I didn't blink and 3 days later I had the MRI pics
back to Sunnybrook.. The MRI showed basically the same thing as the CAT
scan. It was reassuring to see the absence of brain tumors.
In Canada all health care must be paid for by public insurance. This is a
wonderful thing to have, but at the same time, it's illegal to operate, for
example, a private MRI clinic. This is REALLY STUPID! Anyone in Canada who
wants any form of private health care can simply cross the border, be treated, and leave untold number of Canadian dollars in the US when it could
be left in Canada.
Unless the Canadian government controls Canadians
crossing the US border (they wouldn't dare) the idea of a 100% publicly
funded health care system is utter nonsense. If a Canadian is sick, has the
money and can't be treated in a timely fashion in Canada NOTHING will prevent him/her from getting health care in a jurisdiction that allows
private health care. So why don't they accept the situation for what it is
and keep the money in Canada? I've given it much thought and investigation.
So far, I've concluded that morons govern Canadians." Nice" morons to be
fair, although I'd not be surprised if some federal/provincial officials
were heavily invested in over-the-border private health care clinics! Otherwise, it just doesn't make sense.
It was the ophthalmologist who finally lifted my right eye lid for a peek at
the tissue showing up on the pictures. I know that he immediately knew what
it was and he commented that it might not be a bad idea to have a complete
series of MRI's in Buffalo if I could manage it. He was able to easily and
painlessly obtain a biopsy sample. He also commented that I should expect to
be receiving radiation therapy.
I had a series of tests including a chest
x-ray, blood work, a "gamma scan" and another CAT scan to rule out the
possibility of a primary source of NHL. The tests were negative. The biopsy result was small B cell lymphoma of MALT type. It was also
"indolent". There really wasn't a speck of bad news.
I was referred to a radiation oncologist at Sunnybrook. She told me I was to
have 20 exposures of radiation at 3.5 (whatever the heck the measurement
units are) over a 4 week period and that I should expect the following side
effects: Slightly burnt looking skin around the affected area, a
"gritty"feeling around my eye, dryness and some hair loss.
All of these conditions she said would be temporary. I was also told to expect, at some
point in the future, a cataract. Within 5 radiation exposures I was shocked and delighted to accidentally
discover my right eye had almost assumed it's normal position. I had decided
from the beginning of my treatment to take a picture of my face every day
with the help of my digital camera. I backtracked the pictures stored in the
camera and the pictures confirmed what my fingers felt when I arrived home
after the 5th exposure, yawned and "rubbed" my eyes.
By the middle of the treatment regimen my facial symmetry had returned and I
would've been happy to stop then and there. Then came the 3rd week: "Oh oh, lost some of my eyebrow". The next day I
lost some hair from my temple and my skin was reddening significantly. I
also experienced some pain inside my head that the oncologist could not
account for but she prescribed mild pain medication.
A few days after the end of my treatment found me in the worst shape. The
radiation had burnt my skin to a nice "cooked lobster" hue. They were a
bit surprised about this but I warned them that I burnt very easily and quickly
under the sun. I lost a fair amount of hair from the back of my head. It's presently
growing back pure white or perhaps blond. This is a little distressing for
me as I've been blessed with what's known as "executive style hair" and a
perfect balance of brown and gray that makes me <look> somewhat credible
when properly attired (grin).
Oh well, it's at the back of my head and I
can't see it so it really doesn't bother me. Beyond occasional uncontrolled
tearing and peeling of skin, I've experienced no other side effects.
I'm scheduled for a CAT scan this June to see if there's anything left of
the tumor. I have a gut feeling it's "toast" and the pics will show everything to be in fine shape.
A few observations and questions for any that may have survived my
egomaniacal monologue to this point: Should I expect this 'thing" to come
Was radiation the only treatment available? It was the only treatment
I have a fair number of closely related "blood" relatives, numbering about
70, and about 20 are older than I. Amongst the group of 70 there have been 3
occurrences of cancer. An older aunt was diagnosed with stage IV NHL. She's
in excellent health 6 years after treatment.
My older brother developed a melanoma but they apparently treated it in time and he's in fine shape as
well. Then there's myself. There have been a few occurrences of the not so
dangerous form of skin cancers that are hardly worth mentioning; most of us
are very fair skinned. So, for a group of 70 blood relatives I think we have
a good record with cancer.
Or am I wrong? I'm obviously concerned about this
as I've procreated 7 children and my wife's a natural blond. (I really
should have married someone with a darker complexion, but....). What about the possible poison ivy link? Every doctor I've talked to has
brushed-off poison ivy exposure/symptoms as simple "contact dermatitis". The
region I live in is swarming with poison ivy and I continuously hear of
neighbors and former neighbors who are revisited annually by poison ivy
symptoms. The doctors I've referred to live in Toronto where poison ivy is
almost non-existent and they seldom treat anyone who's been exposed to it.
Thanks for reading. Comments and observations sincerely appreciated.
Andrew J. Mead
RR 4 Port Hope, Ontario, Canada