My Battle

My Battle

Know your enemy!! One of the first things I did after the initial shock of discovering that I had Cancer was to learn as much as I could about what this enemy was, How did I get it, how did it work, what was it’s strengths and weakness and how was the best way to FIGHT BACK!

What type of Cancer do I have? 

The type of Cancer I have is called Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, to be specific Non-Hodgkin’s B-Cell Follicular Low Grade Non-Aggressive Lymphoma. There are many types of Lymphoma cancers. The cancers are grouped in two major classes, Hodgkin’s and Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Basiclly, Lymphoma is a Cancer of the Lymph System or the Immune system.

What is the Lymph system and how does it work?

lymphatis_system

The lymphatic system is an important network of glands and vessels which make up the body’s main line of defense against disease (immune system). This network manufactures and circulates lymph throughout the body. Lymph is a clear, watery fluid that contains white blood cells that fight infection and disease called lymphocytes. Along the network are bean-shaped organs called lymph nodes or glands. The nodes are responsible for the manufacture and storage of these infection-fighting cells. Lymph nodes are clustered in the neck, under the arms, in the groin and abdomen and may swell and become tender when the body is fighting infection (such as mono or strep throat).

When lymphoma occurs, some of the cells in the lymphatic system grow abnormally and out of control. Eventually, they may form a tumor which continues to grow as the cancerous cells reproduce. If all the cells are the same, they are called malignant or cancerous, because they will continue to grow and eventually harm the body’s systems. Because there is lymph tissue throughout the body, the cancer cells may spread to other organs, or even into the bone marrow. The functioning of the lymphatic system is most easily seen at the microscopic level. Blood cells are produced in the marrow of human bone.

When mature, white blood cells actively seek out possible pathogens or unknown substances and, using a complex chemical signaling system, can attack directly or provide for the removal of this substance. If a white blood cell is alerted to the presence of unwanted bacteria in the blood, it will find this bacteria and surround it. After a type of white blood cell (a T cell) has the bacteria trapped, it releases a deadly toxin that destroys the bacteria by breaking its outer membrane.
The relationship between B-Cells, T-Cells and other cells in the immune system is complex. B and T cells undergo complex transformations in response to signal chemicals and foreign substances.In the transformation of B-Cells, different cancers can present themselves

What are are B-Cells and T-Cells and what do they do?

To put it simply, B-cells and T-cells are two types of white blood cells that in the case of lymphomas, become cancerous to form a lymphoma. Depending on which of these two types of cells are affected, we get a B-cell or a T-cell lymphoma. Hodgkin’s lymphoma is always a B-cell lymphoma, but non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas (NHL) can be B-cell or T-cell lymphomas.
b_t_comparison

B-Cells

The main job of B-cells is to fight infections outside the cells of the body. B-cells get activated when an infection occurs and they produce molecules called antibodies that attach to the surface of the infectious agent. These antibodies either kill the infection causing organism or make it prone to attack by other White Blood Cells. They play a major role in the immune system, which guards the body against infection.

T-Cells

The main job of T-cells is to fight infection inside the cells of the body. There are a number of different types of T-cells that act in many ways to identify, directly attack and destroy infectious agents. Along with other WBCs, they play a major role in the immune system, which guards the body against infection. After they are produced in the bone marrow, these cells spend some time maturing and developing in an organ in the chest called the thymus (this is why they are named T-cells). After maturation, T-cells are present in the blood and in lymph nodes.

What is Follicular mean?

Follicular Low Grade Lymphoma is one of the most common types of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. It is a slow growing lymphoma that is often not immediately life-threatening. Because it grows slowly and inconspicuously, most people do not recognize any problems while the disease is in its early stages. By the time the disease is diagnosed most patients (80-85%) have widespread disease that often involves many lymph node areas, the bone marrow, spleen or other organs.

The name of this lymphoma derives from the location and behaviour of the cancerous cells. They usually originate in the lymphoid follicles, but more important is that they grow in a follicular pattern. This means that the cells tend to clump together or “stick” together.

The name of this lymphoma derives from the location and behaviour of the cancerous cells. They usually originate in the lymphoid follicles, but more important is that they grow in a follicular pattern. This means that the cells tend to clump together or “stick” together.

normal lymph nodeTo the right is an image of a normal lymph node slice at a medium magnification. Notice how it has those round “follicles” around the outer top edge. They are the pale purple circles you see.  That is what a normal lymph node should have.

follicular

Here is slide of a lymph node with follicular lymphoma. Notice how many more of those follicles there are! And notice how tightly packed they are throughout the node, rather than just at the outer edge.

While follicular lymphomas very often form outside of the lymph nodes, it is this follicular pattern of growth that gives it its name. (past classification systems called it nodular)

Here is a drawing of a normal Lymph nodenodefigcorr4

 What is Low Grade and what is the “Grade” system mean?

A common and simple classification scheme for Hodgkin’s lymphoma considers it to be bulky (large tumor, worse prognosis) or non-bulky (small tumor, better prognosis). Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is classified according to its microscopic appearance, location in the body, and genetic and molecular features. It is frequently divided into three grades.

Low grade, or indolent, lymphomas grow slowly and often do not require immediate treatment but will require a long term treatment plan. This form is typically not curable but responds well to modern day treatments and drugs

Intermediate grade lymphomas are rapidly growing and require immediate treatment. They are often curable.

High grade lymphomas are aggressive and rapidly growing, require intensive and immediate treatment, and are often incurable and are the highest risk of death.

HL and NHL use a similar staging system to describe the extent of the disease.

  • Stage I or early disease is when lymphoma is found in a single lymph node region or in a single organ outside the lymph node.
  • Stage II or locally advanced disease is when two or more lymph node regions on the same side of the diaphragm or one lymph node region and a nearby tissue or organ carries lymphoma.
  • Stage III or advanced disease is when two or more lymph nodes or a lymph node and an organ on the opposite side of the body are affected by lymphoma.
  • Stage IV or widespread, disseminated disease is when the lymphoma has spread to the spleen, bone marrow, bone, or central nervous system.

So How did I get this cancer?

This is the $1,000,000 question! If our army of experts and researchers knew the answer to this question we would have a cure for all cancers by now. The main problem is that the more we research and discover exactly what cancer is and how it works, the more we find how complex the process is and the more we find out how diverse it is.

What we do know is that something causes a reprogramming of certain cells in some peoples body’s. These cells almost become independent of the whole cell normal operating system and begin to grow uncontrolled and do not follow the normal “form,grow,die” plan. These cells seem to revolt from the whole system. The cause of this revolt is just not know. We just don’t know what triggers this malfunction. It could be caused by processed foods, preservative or the chemicals we use on our crops, It may be environmental, it could be increased radiation from the sun, the truth is, we just don’t know but it is one of the main front line battle researchers are fighting to understand!