At the age of 18, my dad, Mark Brightbill, was diagnosed with Stage 3 Hodgkin lymphoma and underwent chemo and radiation. The Tuesday after my now husband and I got engaged, he was diagnosed with nodular LP Hodgkin lymphoma (after 30 years in remission).
After receiving several rounds of chemo, he went through an autologous stem cell transplant on February 25, 2015 at the University of Nebraska Medicine in Omaha, NE. Two months after the stem cell transplant, dad returned to Nebraska Medicine to have open heart surgery to replace his aortic valve and root, which was severely damaged from the radiation he received 30 years earlier. Although the heart surgery went well, dad ended up spending 49 days in the cardiac ICU. He went into acute respiratory failure (due to pulmonary toxicity from chemo) a few days following his surgery and had to be placed on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO). Along with dad coding and having to be taken back to surgery to release fluid around his heart, he fought RSV, rhinovirus, pneumonia, MRSA in his blood, kidney failure (had to be placed on kidney dialysis), four mini strokes, blood clots, a tracheotomy, and several other medical diagnoses. Dad fought the battle and won, and after 49 days in the cardiac ICU he was transferred to Madonna Rehabilitation Center in Lincoln, NE to undergo intense physical, occupational, and speech therapy.
While at Madonna, dad worked hard each day to fulfill the promise he made to me just a few weeks before transferring. This promise was to walk me down the aisle at my wedding on August 8. After dad’s initial evaluation, the doctors informed us that there was a slim chance that dad would be well enough to travel the four hours to Hays to attend the wedding. With that in mind, my husband and I made the decision to relocate our wedding to Lincoln, NE so that dad was able to attend. With that my dad was not only able to fulfill his promise to walk me down the aisle, but also participated in a father daughter dance at our reception.
Shortly after our wedding, dad was released from Madonna and able to return home to finish his therapy as an outpatient. He has returned to his small business in Salina, KS, and is gaining strength each day. His final pet scan showed he was in remission!
My dad is one of the most amazing people I know! Though that summer was the toughest thing that our family has ever had to go through, he never gave up and always kept a positive attitude. I am sharing his story in hopes that others suffering from one of these terrible blood cancers (or any other disease) can find hope and comfort in his determination and success.
-- Laney Roths