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Virginia Palumbo

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

My first bout with cancer was in 2008, when I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. I made it through treatment successfully, finished up in April 2009, and was very relieved to have that chapter of my life behind me.

But in early 2010, I began feeling fatigued. By summer, I started to notice chains of lumps popping up on my neck. I thought perhaps my body was fighting an infection. After making it through one cancer diagnosis, I was in denial about the possibility of facing another. I went to a local hospital, where the doctors said I was not having a recurrence of ovarian cancer. The doctors there put me on “watch-and-wait” status, suggesting that I monitor the lumps.

The lumps came and went during the following months. I was feeling OK, but somewhat fatigued. In late October 2010, I began feeling pain in my left side, under my ribs. It increased over several days, finally reaching the point where I had to leave work. I came home and tried resting, but the pain became unbearable.

My husband Jimmy took me to the emergency room at our local hospital. A CT scan showed that my spleen was enlarged. The doctors needed to conduct more tests, so I was admitted to the hospital. I had surgery to remove a lymph node from my armpit, blood work, X-rays and a spinal tap. The tests revealed what the doctors had suspected: I had follicular lymphoma, a type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

A new course of action

After being discharged from the local hospital, I decided to find a different facility for treatment. I prayed about what to do and where to go for care. After seeing a television commercial for Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA), I decided to call and find out what CTCA had to offer. I spoke with Lisa Tabor, an Oncology Information Specialist. She was wonderful. Lisa made arrangements for my initial visit to the CTCA hospital in Philadelphia.

In less than a week, Jimmy and I arrived at CTCA. We received warm greetings and felt from the moment we arrived, CTCA was where we needed to be. I went through three days of medical tests, scans, etc., and met with my oncologist. She went over the recommendation and plan to get me better. I then scheduled my first chemotherapy treatment for lymphoma.

The right kind of care

In so many ways, the care I received at CTCA was everything that had been missing from my previous cancer treatment experience.

Since my level of CA-125 was escalated, my treatment began with a drug to address that issue. Once my CA-125 level returned to normal, I began chemotherapy. My oncologist wanted me to have aggressive chemotherapy. We talked about what my greatest fear was and I explained I was afraid to get chemo again and have to endure the many side effects that go along with it, including loss of hair. This may seem vain, but after going through hair loss with ovarian cancer treatment, it was something I was not looking forward to. Of course, hair grows back, and getting healthy is the most important thing. But the experience can be upsetting. My doctor researched options, met with the oncology team at CTCA to determine which chemotherapy drug was most appropriate for me. I was impressed with the lengths she went through in order to address my concern.

My naturopathic clinician recommended ways to keep my energy levels up during treatment. A nutritionist recommended healthy foods to eat. Also, to help reduce stress, I had massage therapy and chiropractic adjustments, and I met frequently Rev. Robin Childs, a pastor on staff at the hospital. Robin would seek us out to pray before I had my chemotherapy infusions. That truly meant a lot to us. I firmly believe all of these individuals and the care they offered played a significant role in my recovery.

The happy and positive environment at CTCA also made a huge difference. Many of the services and amenities offered were designed to reduce stress, anxiety and depression.

I completed chemotherapy for follicular lymphoma on April 2, 2011. My spleen returned to normal size, and there were no visible signs of cancer in my diagnostic scans. I am back to the active lifestyle Jimmy and I enjoy—traveling, exploring nature, walking on the beach and serving in our local church. We enjoy spending time with our family and my 91-year-old dad.

Giving back

As a two-time cancer survivor, I am very grateful for good health. Speaking with newly diagnosed patients through Cancer Fighters® Care Net is a way for me to give back. At CTCA, there were so many people rooting for me to get well. Being one more person cheering on others has been extremely rewarding. I have made friendships with people I otherwise would have never met.

I have also started a women’s visitation ministry at my church. Our team visits women who are seriously ill and confined to a hospital bed or their homes.

When other people who are fighting cancer hear that I have been through cancer twice and survived, it gives them hope. I often tell people a cancer diagnosis does not have to be a death sentence. Coping with it is all about maintaining a positive attitude and trying to have a sense of humor.

In February 2012, my husband and I were privileged to travel with our church family to Israel, a place we had always dreamed of visiting. Just a year earlier, I was sitting in a chair at CTCA, receiving chemotherapy. While in Israel, I rode a camel on the Mount of Olives and we visited The Church of the Beatitudes, overlooking the beautiful Sea of Galilee. Our pastor handed me his bible and asked me to read the Beatitudes from the Book of Matthew, right there where they were spoken the first time 2,000 years ago by Jesus Christ! What a gift.

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