On October 24, 2007, I went to the emergency room due to shortness of breath and mild chest pain. Tests were done, including EKG, chest x-Ray and CT scan. The good news was that my heart and lungs were fine but, while performing my CT scan, the radiologist went just low enough to discover a large mass in my stomach and I was encouraged to see my primary care physician as soon as possible. The following week I had an ultrasound and on November 5, 2007 I had upper endoscopy and a biopsy of my tumor was taken. The following afternoon, my gastroenterologist called and told me that I had “a Hodgkins-like lymphoma” and that I would need surgery and chemotherapy. He gave me the name of a surgeon to contact and told me that he was referring me to an oncologist who would contact me the next day.
……the next day came 10 days later. It turned out that my oncologist was off the next day and she had a meeting the following day. It wasn’t until November 16, 2007 that I actually met my oncologist to discuss my diagnosis. In the meantime, based on the initial information that I was given (imminent surgery and chemotherapy), I used those 10 days to place most of my dogs in new homes. I’ve been showing beagles for eleven years and breeding for six years. Over that time, I’ve built a successful breeding program that has become my passion. Watching eleven dogs leave home in just four days was the most difficult thing that I’ve had to face on this journey. That being said, the most uplifting aspect of this journey has been the support that I’ve received from breeders and friends around the world. My dogs are in wonderful homes and I’m so grateful to the friends who have taken them in. Four dogs remain at home, a far more manageable number than the sixteen that I had at the time of diagnosis.
So, with my dogs safely placed in new homes, I went to my first meeting with my oncologist. We learned that my initial diagnosis was just a preliminary diagnosis. The final diagnosis was non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, probably an unusual form of MALT lymphoma. An additional CT scan and bone marrow biopsy completed the diagnosis: Indolent (slow-growing) B-cell non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, stage II, grade 1. My bone marrow is clear and my cancer is limited to the large tumor in my stomach and two nearby lymph nodes.
My first round of treatment came in December 2007 with 4 weekly treatments with Rituxan, a moncolonal antibody that specifically targets my CD20+ cancer cells. A CT scan in January showed that the Rituxan had made insignificant progress in reducing my tumor and so, in March 2008, a more aggressive approach was taken. I began 6 cycles of R-CVP treatments on March 10, 2008.