Living with Stage 4 Non-Hodgskin’s Lymphoma
Susan Doyle, Saanich, British Columbia
Hello to all my fellow survivors and to those currently battling cancers of all kinds!
I’m a 61-year-old woman who was diagnosed in 2011 with Stage 4 Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. I went through a year of CHOP chemotherapy, which is a combination of three different chemotherapy drugs and a steroid. I am so grateful to my doctor for keeping me alive until now. For that year of treatment, I was living with my parents and shall never forget their care. I appreciate every day now, and give my thanks to God, too.
After being diagnosed, I was admitted to the hospital within three days, and then had CHOP chemo administered within another two days. This brutal regimen continued every three weeks for a year. Of course I lost all of my hair, and I became sick and remained so throughout the year. The cancer that had begun in my spleen had metastasized, travelling to other places in my body, including my bones. Chemo was bad, but it has kept me alive for four years now, so it was worth it. My oncologist has told me that I could live up to fifteen more years, but they do not know when the cancer will reappear.
Finances and working life
Having cancer was financially crippling. I could not work for over a year, although my company did pay me something every month. However, like many others in this situation, I was not able to fully pay my rent or other bills and I am still trying to catch up. I was told that some of the medications I needed to take were not covered by provincial healthcare and would cost around $3,000 a month. Like thousands of others, I could not afford this.
I am back to work now, but only putting in 32 hours a week. It is a very physically demanding job, and due to my age and the cancer, I’m not able to go back to working 40 hours a week. I am not earning enough to pay off all my bills, although there is enough to at least make payments, for which I am grateful.
I am eternally thankful to all the volunteer drivers at the Canadian Cancer Society and to the members of my family, who were always there for me even though it was tough on them. I am also grateful that the emergency staff at Saanich Peninsula Hospital recognized the problem within hours, and contacted my doctor while I was still in the ER. It was only four days between diagnosis, hospitalization and my first chemo treatment. In my case, the health system worked terrifically and saved my life.
I am still in remission and visits to my oncologist are down to once a year. I guess I could be classed as a survivor for now. I treasure each day as if it were my last, and I am a better person for it. I hope there are many people that will share my success. Even though this treatment is only a band-aid and not a cure, I will take anything. I realize I am one of the lucky ones; I often think of the many people who have not made it, and that thought keeps me going.
Susan’s final thoughts and tips
After the diagnosis, I learned to live, laugh and love to the best of my ability. I do not think about the cancer returning or else I might just as well have died four years ago.
So keep your chin up, put one foot in front of the other, and be as kind to people as you can. Prayers don’t hurt either! Good luck to all of us and fight the good fight!
Have information about Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma clinical trials?
Mrs. Doyle is interested in clinical trials. If anyone has any information to pass on, please forward it to her c/o firstname.lastname@example.org.