The biopsy through my lung revealed diffuse large B cell lymphoma. Night sweats, weight loss, and a non-productive cough…it all made sense to the oncologist, but not to me. Why me? Why now? I was anxious to get started on chemotherapy to send the alien packing. Nausea, hair loss, and fatigue all seemed worth it to be on the other side of the fight.
Little did we all know, my lymphoma became aggressive, or what they call refractory. After initial tumor shrinkage, subsequent scans showed tumor growth. Only one option remained for treatment: Stem cell transplant.
UCSF became a frequent destination after multiple hospitalizations in my hometown of Fresno, CA. First, stem cell harvest stretched over a week while connected to a dialysis machine, my entire bloodstream daily filtered for those elusive stem cells. Once an adequate supply was bagged and frozen, I planned to make 11 Long, UCSF my home for a month.
Mist building on my two remaining eyelashes, I stalled outside the entry, knowing that I would not breathe fresh air again for at least 30 days…..or…..ever again? Almost from day one, the Dilaudid pain medication dripped in my IV line constantly to ease the pain of the mouth and throat sores. My kids laughed at the funny way I talked at first until the days came when I could barely talk and then they were sad. Phone conversations did not substitute for their warm hugs and soft touch. The day finally came when I was discharged and left San Francisco and made the 3-plus hour drive home.
A handful of return trips back to UCSF showed slow improvement and building up again of my bone marrow. Thankfully, most of my follow-up treatment and check-up was done in my hometown of Fresno. I was treated at Fresno Cancer Care Associates. My oncologist stayed in close touch with my San Francisco oncologists. It has been 12 years since I was diagnosed and I have been in remission since my stem cell transplant was completed.
Thankfully, I was able to pursue furthering my career as a nurse practitioner following my treatment. After graduating, I asked my local oncologist if he thought he needed a nurse practitioner. I have been happily employed at Cancer Care Associates for 6 years and find great fulfillment in connecting with other cancer patients…… Life is good!