In two public Facebook posts Eric Flint tells about his cancer diagnosis and the splenectomy that followed.
He’d been feeling terrible —
EVERYTHING exhausted me. I couldn’t write, I couldn’t edit, I could barely mage to read.
I had no appetite and if I tried to eat I would soon become nauseous. One of the byproducts of the process is that I’ve lost about 35 pounds over the past month.
To describe my mental state as “depressed” is a laugh. I actually felt like I was living in a black hole. I can honestly say that, psychologically as well as physically, that stretch of 2 weeks or so in the middle of this past month was the worst period of my whole life.
I’ve never experienced anything like it — hell, anything _close_ to it. I am normally an energetic person with a very sanguine outlook on life, and now I felt like Don Juan being dragged down to hell — and, dammit, I hadn’t even done anything to deserve it!
Fine, I’m almost seventy years old. Pfui. I’ve also got six brand new novels being published this coming year. Take that, whippersnappers. as you fumble at your pencil sharpeners.
Doctors found elevated levels of calcium in his blood were to blame, caused by a malignancy that was probably in his spleen. They did surgery to remove Flint’s spleen —
The spleen is like a very very big lymph node and it acts mainly as a blood filter. Happily — for people in my situation — it’s one of the body’s organs that can just be removed without usually any major side effects. There are some, and they’re ongoing. When you lose your spleen, you will henceforth be more susceptible to many diseases and you have to be careful the rest of your life. The big ones you have to watch out for are pneumonia and influenza, but there are others like meningitis.
On the negative side, the spleen is basically just a big sack of blood. That means you can’t do a biopsy to find out what might be wrong with it. You’d just poke a hole and spill blood all over your abdominal sack and congratulations, stupe, if it is malignant you just spread the malignancy all over the place.
So with the spleen, it’s all or nothing. If you think there’s something wrong with it — and all of the tests were ringing alarm bells — you just take it out. If it turns out you were right and it was malignant, voila, then you’ve done the surgery. And if it turns out you were wrong, well, so it goes. Start over and find where the malignancy really was.
So, on Friday, they took my spleen out. It was enlarged about 150% above normal size — yes, that was one of the alarm bells — so the incision’s pretty damn impressive.
The results have been encouraging —
The ontological risk is still unclear and will remain so for some time. Weeks, at least; quite possibly, years. There are a number of early good signs in that respect, in my case, which I’ll explain after my next coffee break.
But the verdict is in with regard to the surgical risk, which can now be rated as Zero. The surgery was completely successful, everything went smoothly with no complications, and enough days have now gone by (six, roughly) that we can be fairly sure there’s no longer any risk of infection.
As soon as the spleen came out, all the blood test results dropped to normal: calcium levels, you name it. Needless to say, this is a good sign.
Flint indicated he’ll be writing a third post later with more post-surgery details.