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A Profile of Hope: Susan's Story

In Susan's own words

I believe my symptoms started the spring of 2010 and I just didn't realize it. My legs were badly itching and I just thought it was restless leg syndrome or dry skin. In August of 2010 I thought I had shingles. The test came back negative and my chest area was itching. Then I noticed a lump and went to my OB/Gyn who told me to take ibuprofen and never sent me for further testing. I was having numbness and tingling in my leg and the lump got bigger. I went to my primary doctor two weeks later and she sent me for an ultrasound and mammogram.

I had to wait four and a half weeks to get in. At first they told me they thought it was breast cancer and did a biopsy. The biopsy came back as lymphoma, but I had to have another biopsy after two consultations. I had a second biopsy for a larger section the week before Christmas of 2010 by a pulmonary surgeon because the tumor was so large and growing through my chest wall. I had the bone marrow biopsy the first week in January of 2011 for staging and was staged as 3A diffuse large B-cell lymphoma.

I had my first chemo January 10, 2011. They had to stop the rituximab for about 15 minutes as I started getting an itchy and scratchy throat, like allergies. After a short break it was restarted and I was fine. I actually had four different chemotherapy drugs total and had to have eight treatments. I finished my last treatment June 9, 2011. I was very lucky with my treatments and had very minimal side effects. I didn't take a lot of medications, for symptoms of nausea I drank ginger ale, took ginger root capsules, and ate peppermints and lemon drop candies. For dry mouth I used biotene mouthwash and tooth paste.

After about the fifth treatment I was more tired and would get some side effects a week later from my treatment. I started working longer hours Monday through Wednesday and worked shorter hours Thursday and Friday and then I had the weekend to recover and was better by Monday. I took vitamins the whole time and drank fortified juice in the morning and a nutritional supplement drink in the afternoon that helped me get through the day. I worked the whole time through treatment and did not miss work. I was able to make up the majority of my time when I had to go for treatments.

Through this, I learned support and attitude is everything. I had much support from my family and friends. And also my church family was wonderful. I know God has a reason for everything and I truly believe my reason for having lymphoma is to help others.

I am now feeling great. I just had my PET Scan and blood work two months after my last treatment and I am cancer free. My doctor told me the results were better than he could hope for.

As a way to give back, I became a mentor for other cancer patients through a non-profit cancer support organization. The founder felt after his battle with cancer he needed to have someone to talk to and started this organization.

I believe that this experience has made me a better person and made me have a better outlook on life. It made me calmer and I am able to cope with things much better. I definitely became closer to God and appreciate the little things in life.

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