When folks ask me where the cancer was, I tell them it was located in some lymph nodes, near my left chest area. And the typical response I get, "What the heck are lymph nodes?"
So, allow me to take the liberty to describe these little guys, which are essentially our body's cleaning system.
Basically, according to CancerCare, "lymph nodes are small, bean-shaped masses of tissue that are located in clusters throughout the body, including in the armpit." They play a crucial role in fighting against infection by filtering and trapping bacteria, viruses, and other unwanted substances in the body. Then, once they trap the infection, our special white blood cells - lymphocytes - open a can of whip@$% and destroy them.
Unfortunately, melanoma cancer cells took a foothold in one of my lymph nodes near my left axillary and pectoral region, just under my armpit. Once the cancer took hold, it grew to more than 6 centimeters - basically the size of an average human hand. However, I was very fortunate that the cancer did not spread through the rest of my body's network of lymph vessels. My primary oncologist informed me that based on the size of the tumor and cancerous lymph node, the cancer could have had easily spread to other parts of my body, including the brain.
During the surgery the doctor was able to remove the cancerous lymph node, along with 32 other lymph nodes, to make sure they got all the cancer that they could see. And even though that the surgery was a success, I did sustain some nerve damage during the procedure, resulting in numbness in and around the incision. Likewise, I am also experiencing nerve pain in my left arm due to neuropathy.
In spite of the discomfort and pain, I still consider myself very fortunate and blessed that the cancer wasn’t worse.
To learn more about our lymphatic system, click here.