Of Hope and Remission

I received a wonderful letter & story from Carolyn, a Hodgkin's survivor diagnosed in 1968! In her own words:

I am a survivor of Stage 4 Hodgkin's disease which was diagnosed in 1968 when I was pregnant with my first child. You can imagine what the odds of surviving that diagnosis was 37 years ago! My husband was in the Air Force, so I was diagnosed at Elmendorf AFB in Alaska, then flown back to San Antonio, Texas, for treatment at Wilford Hall Hospital (military). I could have gone to Walter Reed, but we were from the south Texas area and had family there to help out when needed. My daughter was born in San Antonio on January 13, 1969, and I had my first round of chemo within 6 hours of her birth.

I had been put into a control group--guinea pigs for a new, experimental drug protocol referred to as MOPP (nitrogen mustard, oncovin, prednisone, and procarbizine). Within a few months, I went into total remission. Because the doctors had no idea how long I'd have to continue with the MOPP to keep the Hodgkin's at bay, I stayed with it for 2 years. You probably know the drill: vomiting, hair loss (head, eyelashes, eyebrows, etc.), numbness in my fingertips and feet, endless bone marrow samples, and everything else ugly that goes with cancer treatment.

Affter the first year of MOPP, I had been in remission nearly a year, and my husband's commitment to the Air Force was over. Coincidentally, my doctor's enlistment with the Air Force ended at the same time; he opened an oncology practice in Houston, just across the street from M.D. Anderson, one of the premier cancer treatment centers in the world. We moved to Wharton, where we had family living, about an hour from my doctor and that hospital.

I stayed on the MOPP one more year, and then begged to stop it. Because it was a new drug protocol, no one knew how long I'd have to stay on it to continue the remission. My doctor agreed to letting me stop the MOPP and start a course of vincristine (oncovin) alone. It was great--no nausea, nothing. After a year on that, he stopped the chemo entirely.

Against all odds, I went on to have 2 more perfectly healthy, normal children. Now it's been 37+ years ago since that devastating diagnosis, and I'm alive and well, teaching school, and showing no signs of the cancer or treatment other than some slight numbness in a few fingertips, and even that is of no consequence to me.

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