Adrian M.

Hodgkin Lymphoma - Stage IVB

Adrain M
quotation

I am thankful for CTCA. I felt genuine concern and empathy from the doctors and nurses. No one made me feel silly about the questions I had, and they were all thoughtfully answered. As I continue my care at CTCA, I know my doctors and everyone there truly cares about me and my well-being. I am not just a number—they all know me and my family. That alone is extraordinary to me.

Growing up in Syracuse, Indiana, I enjoyed the benefits of living in small town America. In this rural farming community, life and the people living there tend to move at a slower pace, and this suits me just fine. I knew my husband, Cody, since high school, where we dated off and on. However, shortly after graduation, fate brought the two of us together for good, and we eventually married and had three beautiful children. Syracuse is where we have raised our three children, and it is here where we plan to live, work, play and grow old together.

I worked as a manager at a local fast-food restaurant. In August 2012, I began to feel more rundown than normal. Not thinking much about it, I attributed it to my increased responsibilities at work. Then, in September, I was buckling my seat belt and I felt a lump on my left collarbone near my neck. At first, I thought I might be getting sick, which could explain the swollen lymph nodes. But because my father has had issues with his thyroid in the past, I took it seriously and made an appointment to see my family physician.

My family physician was able to rule out a cold or flu and my thyroid as the cause. However, what was concerning was the fact that I had lost nearly 40 pounds over the last four months. Blood work was taken and came back showing that my white blood cells were elevated. The doctor sent me in for an ultrasound. The results confirmed that my lymph nodes were indeed swollen. Next, the doctor said that I needed a biopsy. It may sound funny, but even before going in for the biopsy, I just knew that it was cancer. I could feel it in me.

In December 2012, I went to a local oncologist, where it was confirmed that I had Hodgkin lymphoma. I was started on a first-line chemotherapy typically used for the treatment of lymphoma. Based on the available information about this treatment option, I was hopeful that it would lead to a positive outcome. I was confident that things would go well.

In May 2013, my scans looked good. I felt confident that the treatment was working, and I completed two additional chemotherapy regiments. Then, on the recommendation of my oncologist, I took a break from the end of May through July. When I returned to the oncologist for a check-up in July, I found out that the cancer had returned.

Plans B and C and D

After receiving the devastating news, I was referred to another doctor located in Indianapolis, Indiana, where I underwent an autologous stem cell transplant in October 2013.

After the transplant, I continued with regular oncology follow-up appointments. At each appointment, I received the news that everything looked fine. Then, in August 2015, I received the unfortunate update that my cancer had spread.

With this, once again, devastating news, I was given two options: have an allogeneic stem cell transplant or take part in a clinical trial. After researching both, I chose the clinical trial. It took several months to get enrolled in the trial, but I was able to begin in December 2015. Four months and two scans into the trial, things were pointing in a positive direction. Then at my six-month scan, the cancer showed signs of progression, and due to the parameters of the trial, I was required to stop treatment in July 2016. This was an extremely upsetting time. The funny thing is that I was more upset at my body for continuing to produce cancer cells than I was about discontinuing the trial.

At yet another crossroad, I was faced with the decision of either moving forward with an allogeneic stem cell transplant or going into hospice. At this point, I was not ready for either of those options. I wasn’t giving up yet, either. In September 2016, I contacted Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA). I was familiar with CTCA® through its television commercials. I had also gone online to research the hospital. As soon as I called and spoke to an Oncology Information Specialist, I just knew that CTCA was the place for me.

My first appointment at CTCA was on September 22, 2016. At my initial evaluation, I underwent further testing with a team of doctors and clinicians to better understand my cancer and my treatment options. I met with the Assistant Director of the Stem Cell Transplant and Cell Therapy Program at CTCA Chicago. I felt so comfortable at CTCA. I liked the atmosphere, and the doctors are so informative, yet personable. I was surrounded by other cancer patients going through the same journey I was. I felt like I had an entire support team there.

Next steps

At this point in my journey, it was determined that an allogeneic stem cell transplant was the most appropriate course of action for me. However, in order to perform this type of transplant, which is where stem cells are collected from a donor and transplanted into a patient, they would need to find a matching donor. Since no one from my family was a match, my information was entered into the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP) database. The search was on for a donor who would match my blood type, HLA markers and other key factors. Now I just had to wait and hope for the best.

I started a combination drug therapy, which at the time was a new regimen. The drug therapy worked and stabilized me while I waited hopefully for a transplant.

One of the best days of my life was finding out that they found a match for me. My transplant took place at CTCA Chicago on January 18, 2017. I spent months in the hospital after, but I didn’t mind because I wanted my transplant to be successful and I was willing to do whatever was needed.

Thankful for so many people

I was finally ready to go home in April. With great support from my husband, children, mom and dad, extended family and the people living in my community, I am getting back to the life I knew before cancer.

I am thankful for CTCA. I felt genuine concern and empathy from the doctors and nurses. No one made me feel silly about the questions I had, and they were all thoughtfully answered. As I continue my care at CTCA, I know my doctors and everyone there truly cares about me and my well-being. I am not just a number—they all know me and my family. That alone is extraordinary to me.

In September 2018, with things going well and getting back to normal, I felt the desire to connect with the person who graciously donated his cells for my transplant. We were able to connect through social media, but I hoped to meet him face-to-face one day. One of the employees at CTCA heard about my desire and put together a recipient/donor introduction event at the hospital.

We met face-to-face on January 30, 2019. My stem cell donor is a 24-year-old former U.S. Marine Corps Reserve member. He greeted me with flowers and then met my husband, Cody, our three children and other family members. A special moment took place when my 11-year-old daughter walked up and surprised him with a giant hug, followed by a stream of thankful tears. I was so happy to have met my donor, and I shared my deepest gratitude for him. He, along with my CTCA Chicago doctors and entire clinical team, gave me a second chance to be a mom to my kids and a wife to my husband. I wouldn’t be here today without his gift and their expertise.

During that same trip, I completed my follow-up appointment. Two years after my transplant at CTCA Chicago, my tests showed no evidence of cancer. This was the best news I could have gotten. I intend to keep cancer out of my life and continue to move forward. I have every reason to be optimistic.

Diagnosed:
2012
Treatment at: