Lymphoma, Can’t Forget It. Its June Cancer Survivor Awareness Month

So today June 1, 2013 begans Cancer Survivor Awarenss Month.  I have Peripheral T-Cell Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma Not Otherwise Specified. (PTNHL-NOS).  It has been 50 days since my Stem Cell Transplant.  For those unfamiliar with this process let me try to give the short version.

My Cancer can not be cured with currently available treatments.  I received a heavy dose of Chemotherapy and 6 rounds of Radiation to kill as many CANCER CELLS in my body as possible.  Three weeks prior I had received very strong Chemotherapy (March 4th – March 8th) and I almost died.  I had my own Stem Cells collected and frozen.  After being home for 2 weeks, I went back (April 8th) and received the Chemo and Radiation and then had my frozen Stem Cells thawed and then infused back inside of me.  Hopefully I will be able to live longer by having the Cancer suppressed by the treatment.  Because the treatment killed all of my circulating blood cells I had to have them replaced with the stem cells to grow new ones.

The first 100 days are critical in determining the success of the transplant and it is also important to see if I remain in remission. (Cancer has decreased, slowed or stopped growing)  It was determined I was in remission after the treatment I received in March that brought me so close to DEATH.

I did not have much time to adjust to the fact that I could have died before I was back in the hospital for the transplant.  I was hospitalized for 3 weeks.  I have been home for a month now.  I have so many restrictions to adhere to too decrease my likely hood of developing an infection.  My immune system is compromised.

I am Living with Cancer. I do not feel like a Survivor.  I just feel like I am Surviving.  The fear of the unknown can be so consuming.  I’d love to spend the time enjoying each moment, but with so many moments available and so little that I am able to do, I am bored.  Depressed one might say.  Angry.  Grieving.

I miss my old life.  I miss my old hair, skin and freedom.  I miss my garden.  I can’t because I MIGHT get a fungal infection from the soil.  I guess I am tempting fate because I go out there almost daily to do something.  PocahontasWashintonDC 052

Lymphoma kills thousands of people a year.  It is the number one Blood Cancer.  The earlier diagnosed the better. Get your yearly physical.  Listen to your body.  Don’t be so easy to minimize lumps you feel on your body or changes in voice, weight.  If you experience night sweats, itching or fevers without explanation see a doctor immediately.

If you are a ~SURVIVOR~ Congratulations!! If you are the loved one of one, remember how special it is too still have this person in your life.  If you are still FIGHTING, then FIGHT until YOU RING THE BELL.



Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma: An overview

Lymphoma comprises about 67 subtypes of two related cancers that affect the lymphatic system, Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL).  There are six types of Hodgkin lymphoma and at least 61 types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.  Hodgkin lymphomas are somewhat different from non-Hodgkin lymphoma in the way they develop, spread and are treated.  Lymphoma is the most common blood cancer and the third most common cancer among children.

Lymphoma usually develops when a genetic error, or mutation, occurs within a lymphocyte, causing the abnormal cell to duplicate faster than a normal cell or live longer than normal lymphocyte.  Lymphocytes are small white blood cells that play a role in the immune system, which defends the body against foreign invaders, such as bacteria or viruses.  Like normal lymphocytes, cancerous lymphocytes can travel in the blood and grow in many parts of the body, including the lymph nodes, spleen, bone marrow, blood or other organs.  As a result, while some NHLs are localized in one area of the body, most are present throughout the body by the time of diagnosis.

Although the various types of NHL have some things in common, such as their lymphatic origin, they differ in their appearance under the microscope, their molecular features, their growth patterns, their impact on the body and how they are treated.

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is divided into two major groups: B-cell lymphomas and T-cell lymphomas. B-cell lymphomas develop from, abnormal  B-lymphocytes (“B” because B-lymphocytes come from the bone marrow) and account for 85 percent of all NHLs.  T-cell lymphomas develop from abnormal T-lymphocytes (“T” because normally T-lymphocytes spend part of their lifespan in the thymus gland, a small organ in the chest) and account for the remaining 15 percent of NHLs.

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma has grown from being a relatively uncommon disease to being the fifth most common cancer in the United States, nearly doubling in incidence since the early 1970s, and increasing among women since 1991. (Understanding Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma; A Guide for Patients, Survivors and Loved Ones 3rd Edition; Lymphoma Research Foundation)OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA