stage 4 non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) Waldenström macroglobulinemia (WM) and stage 2e diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL)
My name is Jaime. I am married to my best friend, Brad, and we have three children, two daughters and a son. We also have a daughter and son in-law plus five beautiful grandchildren. I am very fortunate and count my blessings every day.
My cancer story started in April 2009.
While I was participating in my second Avon Walk in the pouring rain, I thought I might be coming down with something. I had my physical scheduled the following week and brought a swollen lymph node to the attention of my doctor. I was in excellent health, felt great, and thought it was nothing. My doctor is very cautious and sent me for a sonogram just to rule anything out. The following week, I had the sonogram. During the appointment, the technician said she wanted to have the radiologist take a look. What she saw were multiple nodes underneath the one I felt. The radiologist suggested I see a surgeon as soon as possible.
This started the journey to a diagnosis of stage 4 non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) Waldenström macroglobulinemia (WM). The cancer was in all four quadrants and my bone marrow. I was in shock, as were my family and friends. After coming to terms with my diagnosis, my oncologist, Dr. Rajendra, started treating me with rituximab. After my first infusion, I had a follow-up appointment with him, and he noticed I was limping. I told him I had just worked out with my trainer and was sore. A week later, I had a second infusion. When I got home, I wasn’t feeling right and couldn’t move my arms. My husband called my oncologist, and he said to get me to the ER. I was having a severe reaction to the rituximab and ended up in the hospital for 10 days. After my discharge, Dr. Rajendra sent me to see the doctor who conducted a rituximab trial at UVA Hospital. After a battery of tests, it was determined that I could no longer have rituximab as part of my protocol.
I then received eight sessions of chemo with little difficulty and went into remission. My life went back to normal on the outside. I was doing well physically, but emotionally I was on a rollercoaster every three months when it was bloodwork time. After the first year of remission, I was feeling much better and not anxious. My life was good, grandchildren arriving into the world, my son got married, and Brad and I were traveling.
In October 2015, the cancer returned. As with the first time, I had no clue. I was active, working, and felt great. Unfortunately, this bout was hard. I ended up in the hospital twice, once after becoming neutropenic and then after developing a severe case of shingles (second occurrence). I had another eight sessions of chemo and lost 45 pounds. I bounced back as with the first time and did much better emotionally. I had systems in place to deal with the fear of recurrence and a network of support. I was back working and spending time with family, and we were downsizing.
Fast forward to May 2020. I thought I had a really bad bout with food poisoning after eating a salad and feeling really sick. I vomited for two days, and Brad said he was calling my primary care physician. As with a lot of people, I was afraid to go to the ER or my doctor because COVID-19 was rampant. My doctor told Brad to take me to the ER. He took me to an Inova Satellite ER and was not allowed in. We agreed I would call him once I was done, and he would pick me up. I did not see my husband until eight days later.
I had a 5 cm. tumor in my colon and a 1 cm. node in my pelvis. After a colonoscopy, I had a colectomy to remove the tumor in my colon. After recovering, I finally got to see my husband and go home.
The biopsy came back as stage 2e diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL). It was difficult to hear because my best friend had lost her husband a year before to the same thing. Also, being diagnosed during COVID was extremely isolating. Our COVID bubble of children, grandchildren, family, and friends disappeared overnight. I had the CHOP protocol for eight sessions. Brad could not sit with me during my infusions. He would have to drop me off and pick me up. It was so hard for him to watch me go in and be by myself. He was always with me during the other two occurrences, every appointment, test, scan, and hospitalization. We got through it together. He’s my rock and the best caregiver.
I am now two years in remission. I just had a CT scan, and they saw a couple of small nodes, one on my thyroid and one in my neck. I have a sonogram scheduled for a closer look, followed by an endoscopy and colonoscopy. Praying for good results.
Since my first diagnosis, I wake up each day so grateful to be here. I am blessed with an amazing family and wonderful friends. I know how lucky I am to have that and do not take advantage of it. My faith has gotten stronger and has helped me through some very difficult times. I keep myself present and hopeful so that I don’t miss out on time with those I love.