B-cell lymphoma survivor: I experienced marriage and motherhood, thanks to MD Anderson
When you’re only 23, the last thing you expect to hear a doctor say is that you have cancer. But that’s exactly what happened to me two years ago.
I was diagnosed with stage I primary mediastinal B-cell lymphoma, an aggressive type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, in January 2021. I’d just graduated from nursing school nine months earlier. I hadn’t even had a chance to launch my career. Suddenly, I was worried I might never be able to.
But I went to MD Anderson for my B-cell lymphoma treatment. And, today, I am not only cancer-free. I’m also a practicing nurse, a newlywed and a brand new mom to a precious little boy.
My B-cell lymphoma symptoms
My B-cell lymphoma symptoms began on Thanksgiving Day 2020. I gagged a little while brushing my teeth that morning. Afterward, I noticed that my voice was kind of raspy. But I didn’t think much about it until it still hadn’t gone away a few weeks later.
I went to a local ENT in my hometown, near the northern border of Louisiana. He thought I had acid reflux and prescribed an acid-reducing medication. It didn’t help.
By this time, I was starting to have other symptoms, too. I’d lost 20 pounds in a matter of weeks, I was extremely short of breath, and I was so fatigued I could barely walk across a room without needing to sit down. I was also still very hoarse and coughing a lot.
My primary physician ordered a chest X-ray and discovered a mass in my chest. The tumor was bigger than my heart and was wrapped around my pulmonary arteries and vocal cords.
My B-cell lymphoma diagnosis
A biopsy of the mass came back inconclusive. But my doctor still suspected it was a type of lymphoma. He suggested I seek treatment at MD Anderson. Before we could even complete the referral process, though, I had a seizure at home.
My parents took me to a local ER, then checked me right back out again and drove me six hours to MD Anderson. I was so scared, getting rolled through those doors at MD Anderson. It was right in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, so my parents weren’t allowed to come inside with me. But the care I received was truly amazing. The staff were so nice and comforting; they became like family. And the whole atmosphere at MD Anderson was so positive. Everyone I met had a smile on their face.
My lymphoma specialist, Dr. Paolo Strati, recommended six rounds of a combination called dose-adjusted R-EPOCH (DA-R-EPOCH). Every three weeks, I’d get another round of treatment over a six-day period.
At first, I was worried that I might not make it. I was in such bad shape. But Dr. Strati gave me hope. He noted that the cure rate for this disease was very high. He also told me that his team would do everything they could to help me beat it. And they did.
The only side effects I experienced were hair loss, nausea and fatigue. But medications helped me manage them. They also didn’t last past the end of chemo, and I was in remission by the end of the third round. I finished all six rounds to make sure we got all the cancer.
My life after B-cell lymphoma treatment
I was so sick by the time I got to MD Anderson that there wasn’t enough time to freeze my eggs. I had to start treatment right away. But I did get Lupron injections to shut down my ovaries temporarily and try to protect them from the chemotherapy drugs.
Even so, I always knew in the back of my mind that I might not be able to have children. So, when I found out I was pregnant earlier this year, I was very thankful. My son, Myles, was born totally healthy on Sept. 25, 2023, a year and a day after I married my husband, Logan.
When I look at our son now, I see a sweet little miracle. I am soaking up all the time with him. I feel so thankful and blessed. MD Anderson saved my life. And God allowed my doctors to heal me and later to become a mom. For that, I am incredibly grateful.
I’d always heard about MD Anderson, but I didn’t really know much about it until I was diagnosed with cancer myself. Now, I can’t imagine going anywhere else.