Diagnosed with NHL at 80 - Neal's success story

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Neal Dyste contributed this personal account of his experience with Lymphoma. From the team at Lymphoma Info, we thank you so much for your contribution and wish you the best of luck in your future. The following is Neal's story about surviving non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

It was in August, 2004, and I had been quite active during the spring and summer. I had my 80th birthday; we started the year with a Mexican Riviera cruise and, in June, had a family get together in Big Bear Lake. My health was good, no real problems; I underwent the usual preventative medicine exams - only my primary care physician had remarked in May about enzymes having a potential abnormality in my blood, maybe due to the statin drug I had been taking for High Cholesterol.

Incidentally, I had also scheduled a prostate and urinary check as recommended for me by my urologist. Because blood was found in my urine, I was sent out for an x ray and CT scan. There were found to be swollen lymph nodes in my chest cavity, an indication possibly of a malignancy. The primary care doctor and the urologist referred me to a cancer specialist who did a complete physical exam and review of the CT exam. Further tests were scheduled; a colonoscopy, and a biopsy.

The results: low grade NHL

The results led to the diagnosis that I had an indication of low grade non-Hodgkins lymphoma.

I then went into a period of reduced activity the physicians called "watchful" waiting. In my case, I was to see the cancer specialist every other month. Unless otherwise ordered, I was to have my blood checked for each appointment, but nothing else. This lasted until the early summer in 2006. I started to have night sweats and itching skin. My white blood cell count lowered.

Also, I became easily tired and did not have much stamina. In the fall, I had a bone marrow biopsy and in January, 2007, I had a CT scan. The scan showed that there was a "mass" in my abdomen and this probably meant that it was time to consider starting treatments. I was briefed on my options for treatment (there were several with various degrees of severity) and I elected to have a course of therapy involving a drug called Rituximab.

Rituximab works by binding to the surface of certain of the body's cells and recruits the body's natural defenses to attack and kill the malignant ones. I started treatment on January 26, 2007. Each Rituximab injection was done by an IV and it took nearly 6 hours for each treatment. There was a wait of six months for the next series of injections and there were four series of injections in all.

The results were fairly positive from the first series of injections. My white blood cell count went back to within the normal range and CT scans following the treatments showed a great reduction in lymph node size. I started the last series of injections of Rituximab on July 25, 2008, completed them on August 15, 2008, and had a full body CT scan on August 25, that showed that the lymph nodes were back to normal with no evidence of tumors anywhere.

The therapy had done its job!

We went back to "watch and wait" and consultations every three months. I am now 88 years old, my wife is 90 and we are both very healthy for our age.

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