I Survived and Thrived With Stage 4 Cancer

One lymphoma survivor learned that life goes on, even after receiving a stage 4 diagnosis.

I just reached 20 years since my stage 4 lymphoma diagnosis, and my twin boys are now 22 years old. Yes, they were 2 when the whirlwind of a routine office visit turned into same-day scans and biopsies that revealed a tumor the size of a football in my chest, abdomen and pelvis (blood cancer, soft tumors). Subsequent tests showed fluid in my lungs and over 50% of the cancer in my bone marrow. I thought it was over, but it was not going to be without a fight.

I vowed to my husband that I would not leave him alone to raise our twin boys and I would live to see my grandbabies. My husband and I celebrated 35 years together this past July and both boys are currently in college. No grand babies yet but that can wait!

Finding the right cancer team and treatment and being a strong advocate for myself with an equally strong partner saved my life. We moved to Portland, Oregon the day after Christmas from a small southern Oregon town to undergo chemotherapy at the Oregon Health and Science University. The high-dose chemo caused my white blood cells to deplete to nothing with no new ones being generated, despite several treatments to stimulate growth. I was in the hospital under complete isolation for two weeks on the brink with a fever of 104 degrees when my body finally decided to start producing white blood cells again.

I survived that and many other hurdles throughout my cancer journey. It gave me the opportunity to stay home with my boys for their formative 2- to 4-year-old years and I taught them to read and write. I went back to work when they went to preschool, and we moved to Utah when they were 6. My husband continued to deploy several times as a military leader and life went on.

At my 10-year mark, the doctors said my scans were still showing minimal disease (cancer) in my lymph nodes with no progression and I did not need to get scans anymore. I did not agree, since I had a tumor the size of a football in me and did not know it and insisted on further yearly scans for peace of mind. At year 11, the scans showed disease progression, and my doctor at the time wanted to just wait and watch. I did that for a few months but could not stand the idea that it was inside me and growling again.

So, my husband and I did our research and found a few clinical trials; we reached out to the doctors participating in the trials and found the right one for me. After two years on the clinical trial drug, I had a serious life-threatening complication and had to stop the medication, but the treatment was enough to put me back in remission again.

My husband retired after 37 years in the military and we are living his dream of living in Montana — he is building an airplane and I have few more years of working as an insurance professional to get the boys through college before we have that plane built, and then I can live my dream and go fly around some tropical islands.

Life and the journey do go on. I was just diagnosed with a secondary cancer. Hopefully one that surgery can eliminate quickly which is scheduled in three weeks.

This post was written and submitted by a CURE reader. The article reflects the views the author and not of CURE®. This is also not supposed to be intended as medical advice.

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