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Inspirational Stories

Richard

Survivor

Boynton Beach, FL

I received a nasty present for my 60th birthday.  I was informed that I had stage 4 follicular lymphoma.  Wow!  Now what do I do?  I was referred to a wonderful oncologist, Dr. Stephen Grabelsky, for treatment.  Dr. Grabelsky told me that my condition was treatable and suggested that I start chemotherapy.  The treatment was no fun but I did go into remission after a few months.  Unfortunately, my remission lasted a few years and I was back in treatment again using a new drug.  I was then referred to the Sylvester Cancer Center in Miami for a consultation.  It was there that I was told I needed a stem cell transplant.

Initially, I was going to have my transplant done in Miami but decided to get a second opinion before starting anything.  I went to Houston to the MD Anderson Cancer Center for a second opinion.  They agreed I needed the transplant but Medicare did not cover the treatment for my lymphoma type.  Quite a shock.  Now what?  The doctor there suggested I contact Dr. Michael Bishop at the National Institute of Health as he was running clinical trials in the transplant area.  I e-mailed Dr. Bishop and he quickly responded to me and I was invited up to the NIH for an initial evaluation.  A perfect match donor was identified and I was prepared to spend several months there for the transplant.

Before the NIH accepts you for a study, you have to go through a very rigorous series of physical exams that looks at every nook and cranny of your body.  After all of the test results are in, you have a big pow-wow with the doctors to discuss the next step.  Well, Dr. Bishop informed me that they were unable to detect any active cancer cells in my body and I should not have the transplant.  Wow again. 

We returned to Florida in a happy daze as the transplant process has many possible nasty side effects.  Dr Bishop consulted with Dr. Grabelsky about future treatments and care and I was home free for now.  Just as a time frame, this was about five years out from my initial diagnosis.

I remained in remission for about five years and received another nasty surprise for my 70th birthday.  My lymphoma had returned but was caught at a fairly early stage.  After four months of treatment, my scans were all clear.  That brings us to today.  I feel great, am very active and continue to live an active lifestyle.  I am over 10 years out from my initial diagnosis.

My advice:
1.  Always remain positive.
2.  Never give up.
3.  Live a healthy lifestyle.
4.  Find good doctors.

richard