“I’m so grateful to have Roswell Park. It is such a great facility. It’s all about beating the disease there. And for the constant support of Gwen and our family. I don’t know where I’d be without them.”
As a young adult cancer patient, I craved a sense of normality. Going to work every day helped me maintain my routine, and for 8 hours, I tricked myself into believing nothing was out of the ordinary. Working as close to full-time as my doctor’s appointments and immune deficiency allowed actually kept me very distracted. It was a key coping mechanism.
I was 27-years-old and went to my primary care doctor for a sore shoulder and a cough that only happened when I laughed. Given a recent backpacking trip, it made sense when his initial diagnosis was a shoulder strain. But as an extra precaution, he ordered a chest x-ray. That’s when he found the mass under my sternum, near my heart.
As a 25-year cancer survivor, a “veteran” if you will, there is a natural tendency for newly diagnosed cancer patients to gravitate toward me. After all, I’ve “been there done that.” And I am more than happy to help, mentor and coach those just starting out on this scary and life-altering journey. My approach is to be open with sharing my experiences, challenges and how I’ve dealt with adversity, guided by the following principles.
Lymphoma is a cancer that starts in the infection-fighting cells of the immune system, called lymphocytes. These cells are in the lymph nodes, spleen, thymus, bone marrow, and other parts of the body. There are many types of lymphoma, and the risk factors vary.
As a cancer survivor of 24 years, I’ve been through a significant amount of ups and downs when it comes to my health. In this environment, one learns to become fluid and quickly adapt. I’ve had the opportunity to revisit and evaluate several facets of my life—priorities, family, careers and other relationships. Twenty-four years post-diagnosis, I am still constantly making those assessments and adjustments.
Watchful waiting is a treatment approach that may be recommended in certain situations for certain types of cancer, including some blood cancers. While this method may seem frightening, understanding the reasoning and science behind it can help to ease your fears.
On October 15, 1992, I was diagnosed with stage IV non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Upon hearing that news, I went completely numb and silent as we drove over to my parents to break the news. I could not bring myself to look or speak to them, as I was in complete shock.