Finding the Elusive Culprit: Elaine's Journey with B-cell Lymphoma

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This article was written exclusively for LymphomaInfo.net by Elaine Poynter, a survivor of diffuse large b-cell lymphoma. In this article, Elaine discusses the tough road to getting diagnosed and the dangers she encountered during treatment.

My journey started in April of 2009 when I noticed I had a lump under my chin. I went to the doctor to find out what it was. I asked the physician assistant that I was seeing at that time if she thought it was cancer, but she told me she didn't think so. Her reassurance quelled my mind for a while, and I didn't think much about the lump after that.

As the months went on, the lump under my chin didn't go away, but it also did not grow. I decided to go back to the physician assistant, and she then started me on antibiotics. I took the medication for two weeks and nothing changed. After two more weeks of antibiotics and no changes, I decided to seek out a second opinion. My new doctor put me on antibiotics for two weeks as well, and when the two weeks were up I went back. She didn't hesitate to get me a referral with a cancer specialist that very same day.

Finding the Culprit

I was sent to have a CT scan right away. I was told to wait at the hospital for the results, so my two daughters and I waited. When the doctor came in he simply looked at the scan and told me I would have to talk to my family doctor about the results. I felt frustrated and angry and insisted on being told what the results were. Eventually, the doctor took me and my girls to another room and told me what I had. He said I would be getting a call from my family doctor to discuss my diagnosis. I had non-Hodgkin's lymphoma – diffuse large B-cell lymphoma.

My family doctor told me that if I was going to have cancer, this was the better option as it was curable. He referred me to a cancer specialist, Dr. Leo Shunyakov. In 2009 I started chemotherapy. I had six rounds of chemo all together every three weeks. In March of 2010, I received my last treatment, but it was a bitter sweet moment for me because by the end of the month I had also lost a dear friend of mine to colon cancer.

An Aggressive Treatment

I did well for a while – everything checked out and my scans were clear. However, two years later my husband became seriously ill as well and I had to become his caregiver. By the end of October of 2012, we began to see improvement in his health and started to believe we were both on the mend, but this did not last.

At end of October, after a routine CT scan check-up, I received the news that my cancer had returned. I was told that the cancer had hid in my left groin in a lymph node. I was devastated, but I also felt frustrated when I was told I could not have the same treatment I had had before. This time I would have to have a more aggressive treatment.

Things got worse for me when I was told that I could not go back to work. I begged my doctor to let me go back to work because I needed the insurance it provided me with. He realized how difficult my situation was and allowed me to go back to work.

A Trip to the ICU

I began my treatment and worked for as few days as possible. In April, my husband and I were on our way to St. Louis to receive the last of my chemotherapy. When I arrived I started a week-long treatment that would kill the rest of the cancer cells. Surprisingly, the intensive treatment did not make me sick. As part of my treatment I had previously had some of my stem cells extracted, and after the chemotherapy was done I was to receive my frozen stem cells back.

During the procedure the stem cells went through my heart, and due to the cold my heart went into atrial fibrillation. I had to be moved into the ICU. I don't remember much about being in there, but I was later told that I often tried to get out of bed. Precautions had to be taken to keep me in bed as I was not fully aware of my surroundings and there was the danger that I could fall and hit my head and have a stroke.

Finding the Right Rhythm

A few weeks later I was able to get out of ICU and my heart was back to its normal rhythm. Two days later I was released and allowed to go to Hope Lodge until my appointment with my doctor on Monday. However, on Sunday I broke out in fever and had to be taken to the ER. The ER physicians discovered I had developed an infection around my port, a small medical device that is installed beneath the skin to inject drugs and blood samples. The following day I had the port taken out. A week after having the port taken out, I was seen by my doctor and was given a clean bill of health.

Since then I have had three CT scans, all of which have been clear. I am doing well. My doctors didn't allow me to go back to work, so I am now retired and I enjoy everyday of it. I get to help take care of my seven grandchildren. From time to time, I sew, knit and give myself time to just enjoy my life. I thank God everyday for his blessings and for allowing me to go through this because it has made me a stronger person.

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