It all started in September 1995 when I discovered a lump on the left side of my neck. I went to the doctor on a Friday afternoon and was told I had Cat Scratch Fever. The next day I was in the hospital with severe chest pains. They controlled the pain, and on Monday they did a biopsy. On Wednesday I was finally told that I had Non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. I saw an oncologist on Thursday, had a port put in on Friday and then reported for chemo on Monday. This all happened very QUICKLY. I was told to go home. They ran some tests, sent me to a urologist and had me go for even more tests. The next day they performed an Orchiectomy. I lost my left testicle, and then it was determined I had Testicular Seminoma. The treatment protocol was for 28 chemo treatments over a period of 7 weeks.
I ended up in the hospital on Thanksgiving eve with pneumonia and an infected port-a-cath. They did surgery on Thanksgiving day and removed the port. At this point I had gone through only 18 Chemo treatments. During a CAT Scan they saw something unusual on my lungs. I had a lung biopsy done and get this, lung cancer! By this time I was about to call it quits, but something told me deep inside not to give up. That is when my doctor in Columbia, MO referred me to Dr. Lawrence Einhorn at IUPUI in Indianapolis, IN.
My wife, brother-in-law and myself made the trip with all my goodies, x-rays and pathology slides. We saw Dr. Einhorn. He told us to have lunch and be back in about 3 hours. His people determined that it was just calcification from the chemo drug bleomycin. We then returned to Sedalia, MO to finish the chemo, but a new protocol since I did not finish the first one properly. I had to take 15 more treatments over a six week period. In May 1996, they told me that I was in remission, but not cancer free because I still was always worrying about the checkups to follow. I was doing just fine until June 1997 when I had this awful pain in my lower back.
I went back in for a CAT Scan, and to my surprise MY TUMOR WAS BACK. It was on to Columbia, MO and back to see Dr. Einhorn. By this time, he and I are on first name basis. After looking over everything he prescribed 20 more horrifying treatments of chemo. This time I had to be admitted to the hospital in Columbia, MO and have chemo going through my body 24 hours a day for 5 days and then be off for 2 weeks. Well in those 2 weeks you can imagine what goes on. I ended up in the hospital only to get out just before it was time to go for week #2 of my second round of 5 days of chemo at 24 hours a day. This started in July and I was through with the second round around the middle of October 1997. I went to IUPUI for a PET Scan and got the results back in November of 1997. CANCER FREE for the second time.
I was coasting right along until one cold day in February, I felt a pain in my back. Was I ever getting some second thoughts about this one! I went in the hospital, got a blood clot in my right leg, and guess what, the same tumor is back. I was then set up to go to IUPUI for the RPLND surgery. I got there in February 1998 and I had my CAT Scan so Dr. Foster, the Urologist, under the direction of DR. Einhorn, could determine where the problem was and get on with the surgery. Guess what? The tumor was so big that they could not perform the surgery. Dr Einhorn was in Tennessee at a convention but always was in contact with the hospital about my situation. At this point they decided to see how the tumor would react to, of course, chemo… Here goes my hair for the fourth time.
I did the chemo, landed up in ICU, and my pastor was saying last rights to me. I could not believe all this. I wasn’t ready to die yet. The following CAT Scan showed that the tumor reacted well to the chemo. A little after Easter, Dr. Einhorn decided that I would be a prime candidate for a stem cell transplant. My wife and I travel back to Indianapolis and we had to leave my two twin boys at home in Missouri while I am on another mission to save my life. I did the high dose chemo and spent 28 days in a bubble room while my wife, my mom from Connecticut and my Aunt Paula stayed at the Hope Lodge in Indianapolis. I got out of the hospital around the end of June and waited for round #2 of the high dose chemo. I had a blood test on a Tuesday and, when I came to the hospital on Thursday they did another blood test. My Alpha Fetoprotein level was elevated and that never happened before. AFP is not supposed to be elevated with seminoma. We cancelled round #2 of the high dose chemo. That really didn’t bother me but, of course, the question in my mind was, “What’s next?” I left that up to Dr. Einhorn. They decided to jump right into the RPLND at this point. I went back to Missouri and awaited for the call telling me when to report. I returned to Indiana about the second week of July 1998 and was taken to the operating room a record three times before I was told that they could not perform the surgery. This was because my platelets were to low for what Dr. Foster set as his parameters. We went back home again.
In the years I was battling my cancer I was not able to work. I survived because of family and friends. We did not have all the luxuries that everyone else had but I had my family and my life. At times I thought it would be easier for me to just pray that God would pack it all in for me. I always kept asking the question “Why Me?”. We made the trip back to Indy on the 27th of July. They prepared me for the RPLND surgery. The only thing I remember was looking at Dr Foster. He gave me the high sign so I said my prayers and just hoped that I would come through this. The surgery was on a Monday. I had 77 staples and was on my way home the following Thursday. I guess you could say I came out of it all right. The one thing I do remember is that Dr Einhorn and Dr Foster came into my room on Wednesday, and they told me that the surgery was a success and that all the cancer I had was all dead cancer cells. I cried, but it was a cry of happiness. I had a check-up the following month at IUPUI and then every 3 months.
This year when I see Dr. Einhorn it will be 5 years, and I cannot wait for that day. I do not know what I owe my survival to, but this ordeal was a tough thing to go through. I was 42 years old when I was first diagnosed, and I am going to be 70 in November 2023 and hope to live a good long time.
- Greg Katzing, cancer survivor