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Hugh King

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL)

This testimonial includes a description of this patient’s actual medical results. Those results may not be typical or expected for the particular disease type described in this testimonial. You should not expect to experience these results.

View CTCA treatment results for prevalent cancers we treat

Overview

My story

When I was 63 years old, I began feeling some mild symptoms that indicated something wasn’t quite right. I had some sore throats, some congestion that would not clear up, even with antibiotics, and I was feeling tired. I worked in construction for more than 30 years, and I thought the dust fumes were causing some problems.

Three months after I first saw my doctor about these symptoms and no treatments were working, I went back to find out what to do next. She suggested that I consider seeing an ear, nose and throat specialist, though I did not receive a formal referral. Fortunately we did know of someone near our home in Peoria, Arizona, though I had to wait a couple of weeks for an appointment. In the meantime, I was feeling increasingly unwell and was growing more concerned. When we finally did see the specialist, I had a long wait, the staff forgot my name, and at one point I was told, “You’ve probably got cancer.”

The specialist did a biopsy and the results came back two weeks later. He told me that I had lymphoma and that he would refer me to an oncologist. That referral never came.

A family connection

By coincidence, our daughter had just been hired to work at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) facility that was just opening in Phoenix. She knew about my health issues, and she conferred with Dr. Joel Granick about what was happening. She provided me with information about CTCA and encouraged me to call. I was definitely ready to change courses, so I spoke with someone there and was soon meeting with Dr. Granick.

From the first moment, I knew there was something different about CTCA. The staff at the Western Regional Medical Center was small at the time, and there were just a few dozen patients. But the building felt like a resort, not a hospital. The atmosphere and amenities, even the cafeteria all felt so inviting. The staff welcomed my wife and I with open arms, not because my daughter worked there but because that is how all patients and caregivers are treated.

Getting through treatment

I had four rounds of chemotherapy plus rituximab, a monoclonal antibody. The treatment was given on a 21-day cycle, and at the end I had a PET scan that showed no visible signs of cancer. I had an additional two cycles of treatment just to be safe, and the cancer has been in remission since those were completed.

The treatment was tougher than I thought it would be. Aside from cancer I was very healthy and strong, so I assumed I could handle the medication. But it was difficult at times. I lost my hair, though fortunately the anti-nausea medications were very effective. At one point during treatment I had a problem with muscle control in my legs, but a few sessions of rehab work got me through that with no lasting problems.

I received wonderful care from my doctor during the roughest periods. His advice was always to do what I could. He urged me not to push myself, but also not to fight the urge to try to do something, even if it was the middle of the night and I was having trouble sleeping. He said I would know when it was time to rest, and to just trust that.

My family was invaluable to me during this time. My wife of 46 years, Carol, is the love of my life and she was an incredible caregiver. Sometimes she would try to do too much, and one time our care manager had to encourage her to let me do some things for myself, that this was an important part of my recovery. She was always there for me, and I’m grateful for that.

The family unit as a whole kept me going. Our daughter and two of our four grandchildren lived nearby, and they gave me constant encouragement. My faith remained strong, and I knew I would get through this difficult time.

My motivation

Family was not only a support, but also a motivation. I was determined to see my grandchildren grow up, and I’ve gotten that opportunity. It’s been five years since I was first diagnosed with cancer. I’ve seen two grandchildren go off to college, one is about to graduate. Our youngest grandchild has gone from a preschooler to a nine-year-old.

Today I am also working with CTCA as part of their outreach. I’m very thankful to have the chance to give back in this way, to tell other people coping with a cancer diagnosis about the level of care they will find at CTCA. The range of integrative approaches on offer—naturopathic medicine, nutritional support, mind-body techniques to reduce stress, and even the spiritual support—are indicators of the fact that the professionals at CTCA see their patients not as patients but as whole people, and that this “whole person” approach is the best way to treat cancer. They understand that we don’t just want to be treated for cancer, we also want to live life. The care I received at CTCA has allowed me to do that.

Carol King, Hugh’s wife and caregiver

Hugh had always been in good health. A few years ago, he began feeling tired and would get short of breath. He seemed to have symptoms of depression, and because he was going through a difficult time with his work, that made sense to me.

But the physical symptoms kept coming. Yard work that he could once easily do after working an eight- or nine-hour day was suddenly difficult. I was becoming a little alarmed, and became even more so when he developed a cough. He also had a small lump on his neck. My suspicions changed from depression to lung cancer.

Hugh’s doctor thought he had strep throat and prescribed him antibiotics. At the time, that very first appointment, Hugh asked his doctor about lymphoma. He thought he had the symptoms for it and wanted to know what his doctor thought. She said no, it was just strep throat.

The first antibiotic didn’t work, so she prescribed him a second one. When that one didn’t work, she moved to a third one. By that point, Hugh was ready for some more intensive testing, and he asked his doctor to refer him to a specialist to examine the lump on his neck.  The specialist did a biopsy and explained to me, in a comforting way, that lymph nodes can do all kinds of crazy things as we age, and he was certain that Hugh’s swollen lymph node was nothing to be concerned about.

Three weeks later the biopsy test results came back. The doctor spoke to us in that same comforting way, but this time he wouldn’t make eye contact. He told us that Hugh had cancer, and that the cancer was either lymphoma or sarcoma; he’d need to do further tests to make the exact diagnosis.

The Mother Standard of Care

After the specialist made the diagnosis of lymphoma, Hugh went to a cancer center near our home. The doctor there told us that before his treatment could begin, Hugh needed to get a chemotherapy port installed at a different facility, have some additional blood work, and have a bone marrow biopsy. We were so overwhelmed, and not feeling very good about having to go to so many different clinics before he could even start treatment.

Our daughter had just started working at the CTCA facility in Phoenix, which had just opened at this time. She knew that patients there have everything taken care of in one place and without delays. She urged Hugh to go there for a second opinion, which is exactly what he did.

The treatment plan that the CTCA doctors proposed was similar, but the model of care was completely different. Now we were experiencing the “mother standard” of care—the care team would treat Hugh with the same attention that they would give to their own mothers. He could have all his tests done under one roof, too, which was such a relief. The team also treated me with equal importance. I always had so many questions—for every 5 questions that Hugh had, I had 25—and they patiently answered each and every one.

Hard to watch

Hugh was able to handle the treatment (R-CHOP) quite well. He didn’t have too many side effects, though he did lose his hair and become pale and weak from the chemotherapy. After four rounds of treatment, a PET scan showed no visible sign of cancer.

As Hugh’s caregiver, I was constantly on the watch for signs of fatigue. Some chemotherapy drugs can actually give you a boost of energy, and you can become tired without warning. So I had to watch out for that and encourage Hugh to rest when I saw that he needed to. He resisted my persuasion at first. He didn’t like being told to rest, and the role reversal—a strong man now in a weakened state—was difficult for him to handle. But his care manager helped him understand that he wasn’t weak; he just needed to be reminded to rest. He came to understand that being able to admit that he needed something or someone was actually a strength.

Still, the most difficult part of Hugh’s treatment for me, as his caregiver and as his wife, was watching this strong man who is normally in such control, become weak. With chemotherapy, he lost his strength temporarily. When we went for walks around the neighborhood, as we have often done over the years, he could not lift his feet, but only shuffle them. And I could not react to that shuffling, as heartbreaking as it was. I knew it was embarrassing for hi, and I needed to keep a brave face and act like everything was normal.

Yet hard as this time was, it strengthened our relationship. We were not only husband and wife but also friends. We became more honest with one another, and that included me being able to tell him when I was having a tough day, which is not easy to do when you’re taking care of someone who is coping with a cancer diagnosis—you can easily feel guilty for not being at your best. I learned to allow myself to have moments of small breakdowns without feeling like I had no right to do that because I was the caregiver. Hugh and I learned to not put on a false face, but to instead be honest and loving.

Our family was wonderful through this time. At first, our children and grandchildren needed to get over the shock of hearing that their father and grandfather was sick. They were extra careful around him in the beginning, but quickly realized that Hugh was the same person, which he greatly appreciated. They helped him by treating him normally, and they enjoyed giving him caps as gifts when he lost his hair.

Strong again

After the care Hugh received at CTCA, he is now back to his normal, strong self. He can walk without shuffling again. Near our home there is a hill with a steep hiking trail that he and I had often walked. When he was going through chemotherapy, he couldn’t do that. Our first post-treatment milestone was giving that hike a new try. We thought we’d see how far we could go, and be happy with that. Next thing we knew, we were at the top, looking out over Phoenix, just as we’d always done.

Today we can celebrate holidays without the knowledge of that next scan hanging over our heads. More importantly, we have learned to celebrate every day.

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