It was 2002. DeWayne Hickman's 3-year-old-daughter was just starting ballet, and his son was not quite 2. "My life revolved around them," he says. Being a busy dad, DeWayne didn't have time to be sick. So when he started having night sweats and high fevers, he immediately went to the doctor.
They said I had the flu," DeWayne says. But after three visits to the doctor, he wasn't getting any better. That's when, DeWayne says, "I knew it was something more serious." More tests led DeWayne's doctors to biopsy his liver and a swollen lymph gland. Both were malignant, they told him.
The diagnosis was lymphoma. Right away, DeWayne and his wife, Julie, began asking their friends who worked in the medical field where to go. "One friend told us, ‘If you can figure out how to get there, MD Anderson is the place,' " he says. "Then we saw a few things where they were rated the best cancer hospital."
Traveling to MD Anderson
So with that, and tons of support from family and friends, the decision to travel from Kansas City to Houston was an easy one. DeWayne says, "When I first met my oncologist at MD Anderson, he came in, looked me in the eye and said, ‘I've reviewed your test results, and I want to be direct with you. It's serious.' "
Treatment from MD Anderson
DeWayne's clinical team understood how his lymphoma was transforming. To give DeWayne the best chance, they developed a customized approach, integrating and adapting chemotherapy to cover what was essentially two different types of lymphoma that were occurring simultaneously.
DeWayne's doctor, Peter McLaughlin, explains: "Mr. Hickman's situation presented unique challenges. There were elements of two different types of lymphoma, and our approach had to address both. Moreover, we regarded him as being at high risk for the disease to spread to the brain, so our approach had to cover that possibility, too. Administering standard therapy in a case as complex as this just wouldn't have done him justice."
During his treatment, DeWayne took advantage of all the support centers MD Anderson offers. He met with a nutritionist and took classes such as "How to Deal with Pain Management." DeWayne's wife and mother also attended classes so they would know how to care for him when he finally was able to return home. "I'd never wish cancer on anybody," DeWayne says, "but if anybody has it, I would recommend MD Anderson wholeheartedly."
Six years – that's how long DeWayne has been cancer-free. "You know, being healed and being able to come back to my lifestyle is a wonderful thing," he says. Today, DeWayne Hickman's life still revolves around his kids. There are a lot more dance recitals now. And he's even coaching his son's basketball team. "Sometimes I look at them and think, ‘What if I hadn't survived?' " DeWayne asked. "But thanks to MD Anderson, I did survive."