Eight days ago I noticed a lump in Luke's neck as I was helping him brush his teeth. We called our pediatrician and made an appointment with one of the doctors in the practice. This particular doctor is the head of their walk-in sick clinic and I really like her. She performed a very thorough physical exam, ran a CBC and checked for strep throat (he'd recently been exposed). Everything came back within the normal range, so she did her best to reassure us that it was probably just a viral infection that would need to run its course. Aside from this lump (lymph node just under the jaw line, near the ear) absolutely nothing appears to be wrong with my son.
The very next day, I had to take Luke to our local children's hospital for an unrelated issue. While we were there, I asked the doc for his opinion on the lymph node. He said all the same things the pediatrician did, "Not alarmingly large, moves around, probably just an infection." He thought it was probably bacterial as opposed to viral... Probably staph. He prescribed an antibiotic and said to call our ped if it gets any bigger or doesn't show significant signs of improvement within two weeks. Both docs used the words, "I don't think this is a bad lump", so we took comfort in that.
Last night I noticed that the lump feels larger; moving farther up towards the ear and down his neck. You can see the bulging from several feet away. (I wish I were exaggerating.) I took him back to see our ped today. She agreed that it was bigger, gave another very thorough exam and ordered a lot of labs and a chest x-ray (looking at the lymph nodes in the chest). We will go back in to have his TB test read in two days (apparently there is a strain of TB that is not upper respiratory). Part of his blood labs and the chest x-ray report will be in the ped's hands later this afternoon. The remainder of the labs will come in later this week. We don't expect the doc to call until she has them all... Until then, we wait.
While we were at our children's hospital getting all the labs done, our ped personally called a pediatric surgeon that she highly recommended. His schedule is packed, but he agreed that Luke needs to be seen sooner rather than later. (Exactly how I am supposed to take that?) He asked our ped to call in a stronger antibiotic, and said he wanted to give the labs time to come in and the new meds time to work before seeing him... So, he had his assistant fit us in next Tuesday morning.
The surgeon told our pediatrician that in all his years of surgery, he has never once seen a lymphoma present this way in such a young child. He has seen secondary lesions appear this way (secondary to a pre-existing cancer), but he believes that Luke would have been very ill for some time if he has an undiagnosed cancer. His CBC (from last week), his physical exams, his diet.... there are NO indicators other than this lump that anything is wrong with him! We are encouraged by that.
The surgeon and our pediatrician believe that this will most likely prove to be an infection. Quite possibly an infection that will end up being surgically removed, but an infection all the same.
I am so very grateful for our pediatrician. I hesitated to take Luke to the doctor today because I didn't want to inconvenience anyone if the size increase was only in my imagination. Our doctor was so kind, compassionate and thorough. I felt like she was treating Luke the way she'd treat her own child. And as my eyes welled with tears at the mention of surgery, she handed me a tissue the way a dear friend would. The nurses and technicians at the hospital were wonderful too. Their kindness and understanding made our not-so-pleasant morning bearable. My kids loved the slushes they received after Luke gave up three vials of his blood!
I have prayed constantly over these last eight days that God would make it clear to me if something is seriously wrong with him. I have prayed that I would know what I was supposed to be looking for, since I have no medical training at all. And I've prayed that our doctors would be skillful and correct, and that I'd be covered with His peace as we wait for this to be resolved. I cried on the way from our ped's office to the hospital, but managed to put on a smile for the kids when we were face to face. I'm amazed that I was able to hold Luke while his blood was drawn! That is one thing I never, in a million years, would have expected I'd be capable of. I give the credit for that to God!!
My prayers now turn to the coming week. That Luke's new meds will obviously be working (prior to our surgical consult) if this is an infection that can go away without surgery. We pray that his labs will come back with clear answers, definitely ruling things in or out. And we will pray for the knowledge and skill of the surgeon we will be meeting next Tuesday. We beg for this not to be cancer. Of course, we continue to pray for His peace and patience as we wait.