My cancer treatment was very minor compared to my husband’s, though. All I needed was a simple surgery. But without MD Anderson, my husband wouldn’t be here today.
My melanoma diagnosis and treatment
I used to own a tanning salon, so I know exactly how I developed melanoma. I used tanning beds for many years with little or no protection. Fortunately, my dermatologist diagnosed the growth early and a friend referred me to Dr. Merrick Ross.
Dr. Ross performed a quick outpatient surgery to remove the melanoma from my abdomen in September 2019. The melanoma hadn’t spread yet, so I didn’t need any additional treatment. I only go in for checkups every six months now.
My husband’s non-Hodgkin lymphoma diagnosis
My husband, on the other hand, needed much more intensive therapy. He began showing symptoms of non-Hodgkin lymphoma while I was still recovering from surgery, though we didn’t know it at the time.
First, he started feeling really tired and dizzy. Then, he had no energy at all. That was a significant change for a 77-year-old who exercised regularly, went skiing and scuba diving and always went down the water slide with his grandchildren.
By the time Dennis got his non-Hodgkin lymphoma diagnosis in early January, he had 45 tumors all over his body — mostly swollen lymph nodes on his upper torso, shoulders and neck.
Up until then, I had been so scared. But by the time we left our first appointment with Dr. Neelapu, I had so much confidence that I turned to my husband and said, “He’s going to save you.” And he did.
Dennis had six rounds of a targeted therapy drug called rituximab, plus a chemotherapy combination called “EPOCH.” Each treatment required five days of in-patient hospital care. Dennis felt so much better after just the first one. After the second one, I saw my husband come alive again. A PET scan taken at the time showed almost all of Dennis’ tumors had disappeared. By the time he finished chemotherapy on May 19, my husband was in complete remission.
We were astounded. Here he was, with stage IV cancer and now he was cancer-free within a six-month period! He’d been so sick at first, I was afraid I was going to lose him. Then, we found out he was in complete remission. I was so relieved that I had to walk out of the room to cry.
Wonderful staff made coping with COVID-19 visitor restrictions easier
For me, the hardest part of Dennis’ treatment was the COVID-19 visitor restrictions that MD Anderson implemented to protect its patients and employees. Don’t get me wrong: we totally understood and agreed with any rules that prevented Dennis from getting any sicker. I just missed being able to keep him company.
Twice a week during treatment, I took him to MD Anderson in League City for bloodwork. It was really convenient for us, since we live close by. But I wasn’t allowed to come inside with him, or to accompany him to any of his treatments at the Texas Medical Center Campus. The first time was especially hard. It was like dropping off a pet at the kennel. I just felt so bad leaving him there.
My one consolation was knowing how well the staff were treating him. Everything they do is to perfection. We have not had even one complaint about anyone who has cared for my husband since he first went to MD Anderson. Even the people who clean the rooms and bring the food have been wonderful. We’ve been tremendously impressed. Once it was clear to me that he was getting the best care in the world, I knew he was going to be OK. As it turns out, he is. I am so grateful.