Robbie R.

Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma - Stage 2

Robbie Robinson

I called City of Hope right away and made an appointment. Within the next week, I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, staged, given my treatment options and assured that I was not alone in my fight. I was on a team now—which I was to be a big part of—and we were going to do everything possible to beat this disease.

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. 

In the fall of 2001, I was praying for a change in my life that would allow me to work from home and spend more time with my family. That prayer was answered in a way I wasn't expecting.

My wife, Julie, was still recovering from an operation she had in 1998 to take care of a giant brain aneurysm, and I wanted to be home more.

So that my wife would be taken care of in case something happened to me, I purchased a life insurance policy that August. I was deemed fit and healthy by the insurance company after blood tests and a physical.

In late October, I started feeling very tired all the time. I was cramping badly when I ate anything, which shortly became all of the time, not just when I ate. I shrugged it off as best I could and assumed it was stress from the combination of work, caring for my wife and parenting three daughters and a son.

Because I felt progressively worse as time went by, in January 2002, I decided to get a checkup from my internist, whom I had known for 10 years. Once again, blood tests were taken, as well as most internal exams, top to bottom. Because all tests came back as normal, aside from some minor digestive problems, I was diagnosed with having "food amnesia.” My doctor believed it was nothing more than I was just eating more than I was willing to admit to her or myself.

At the time, I had a brother-in-law who had been misdiagnosed with a very aggressive form of cancer, which was in his lungs and elsewhere in his body. I told this to my doctor and asked her to please try some other tests. She said she would order a CT scan, one of the tests that had not been done yet.

Ten days later, I received a call at 9:30 at night from my doctor telling me that a baseball-sized mass had shown up on a CT scan of my lower chest. She said it could possibly be an infected abscess, but that I should make an appointment with an oncologist at a cancer facility near me in Illinois to get a second opinion. The only word that stuck out in that conversation was the word “cancer.”

A desire to move quickly

By this time, it was March 2002. Five months had passed, and I was getting weaker by the day and hurting more all the time. I had seen a local oncologist, who confirmed that I had cancer, but was unsure of the type. He scheduled a needle biopsy, and after two attempts to obtain a biopsy, I was referred to a surgeon.

The surgeon recommended that I have the tumor removed at the time of the biopsy. However, it was wrapped around my aorta, and therefore, was unable to be removed during the surgery. 

As time went by, I became devastated, exhausted and weaker by the day. I knew that if it was cancer, it wasn't going to take a break, go on vacation or take the day off. And I still wasn't actively fighting it, just diagnosing it. I wanted to get moving quickly and get a treatment plan together. That evening, I was talking to a friend, who gave me the number to Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA),* where he had gone when he had cancer. He encouraged me to give them a try.

The next day, which, by this time, was late in April 2002, I called CTCA® and spoke to an Oncology Information Specialist. He patiently listened as I told him my situation. He took my insurance info and said he would call back that afternoon. Within a few hours, he called back and said that he would FedEx an information packet about CTCA and that I should be receiving it the next day. When that truck pulled up the next day, I knew at that moment that CTCA was the hospital I should be dealing with. This organization finally understood my sense of urgency.

Speed to care with a team surrounding me

I called CTCA right away and made an appointment. Within the next week, I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, staged, given my treatment options and assured that I was not alone in my fight. I was on a team now—which I was to be a big part of—and we were going to do everything possible to beat this disease.

My treatment consisted of six rounds of immunotherapy and CHOP chemotherapy regimen over the next eight months, followed by five days of radiation for five weeks. At last, I was physically fighting my cancer. It tried to overtake me, but with the support I was receiving from my care team at CTCA, I felt I was going to win. I did experience some side effects, including neuropathy and pain. I used supportive therapies, including mind-body medicine—specifically laughter therapy and music therapy—to help manage these challenges and maintain a healthy mind. And on May 21, 2003, a year after my port was put in, I learned that I no longer had any evidence of disease.

Giving back and helping others

I have now been an aftercare partner on the healing team of my health care management for many years. This is one of my favorite quotes that I like to share with other patients: When I got tired of being called a patient or a survivor, I started calling myself “the lead partner on the healing team of my health care management.” In other words, I was empowering myself to lead my healing team that helped me manage my health better.

I joined the CTCA Cancer Fighters® Care Network program to become active in helping other patients recognize their own strengths in their fight, as well as offer insight on CTCA and its philosophy of healing. I have made life-long friends with other cancer fighters through the Cancer Fighter patient-to-patient network.

Because of the philosophy that is cultivated throughout CTCA, I have been able to become an ambassador for hope, faith and belief that just because someone tells you that you have cancer, it doesn't mean your days of greatness are over. I also walk in marathons to raise money and awareness for the fight against blood cancers.

I feel like I am a blessed man. As I went through my cancer journey, I didn’t focus on the negativity of the cancer. I’ve gotten so much more out of cancer than it ever took from me. I thank CTCA for helping me to realize that I have the ability to be enabled in life—not disabled—because of cancer.

* Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA) is now City of Hope®, working together to expand patient access to personalized, comprehensive cancer care. Because this patient testimonial was written and published before CTCA® and City of Hope joined forces, mentions of legacy CTCA locations have not been updated in the interest of maintaining the patient’s original voice and story details.