“My Voice” by Teresa Ward

Teresa Ward - 'Survivor'

My name is Teresa Brown Ward and I am a Survivor.

Being a survivor to me means I am here to be with my family.  My son was only seventeen when I was diagnosed.  My husband and I had just celebrated our 7th anniversary.  I have two stepsons and a grandson who need me too.  I was only 46 years old at diagnosis; I still have a lot of years left to live.  I do daycare in my home; I need to be here for my daycare kids.  I am not going to let cancer get me; not without a fight that is.

My story starts  January 2, 2009 during a routine physical.  There was blood in my urine; this led me to a lower CT scan.  The scan indicated swollen lymph nodes in my groin, on my adrenal gland and a swollen spleen.  I was back the next day for an upper CT scan.  This scan revealed more swollen lymph nodes under my arms.

January 22nd we met with the surgeon.  At this point I was convinced that I had some nasty infection.  That I would go on an antibiotic and all would be well.  We left his office with an appointment for a biopsy.

February 4th I had my very first surgery ever.  I got thru the surgery;  the wait began for the results.  On February 12th, I was finishing up with decorations for my sister’s wedding on the 14th.  I received a call from the surgeon’s office.  The lady informed me that she had my Oncology appointment set up.  And this is how I found out I had cancer.  I later got a call from the surgeon.  All he could tell me was that it was Non Hodgkin.  I had to wait to see the Oncologist on February 20th.   I spent a couple hours crying, feeling sorry for myself…..then I vowed to fight!  I would NOT let Cancer win!

We learned that I had Mantle Cell Lymphoma.  The chemo consisted of part A & B.  I would spend 3 – 5 days every 3 weeks in the hospital.  I would get A, next time B, then A again.  The week after my appointment was a wild roller coaster ride.  All sorts of tests; checking my heart, lungs,  bone marrow biopsy and etc.  I was stage IV.

And of course I was on the internet.  Looking for any info I could find on MCL.  What I found was a lot of information written several years ago.  Reading was bleak….1 to 3 years to live is what I found.  I didn’t find the Facebook or ACOR groups until after my treatment.  I really wish I had known about them sooner.

March 5th chemo began.  I hated the fact that I had to be admitted to the hospital. But I started looking at it like “my mini vacation”.  Packed my PJs, laptop, crafts, snacks, magazines, phone and off I went.
I was scheduled for 6 rounds of Hyper CVAD w/Rutixan.  I had been to Dana Farber for a consult after round 1.  It was decided after round 3, I would have my stem cells harvested and have an Auto SCT.  After round 5 my platelets would not recover.  We waited a couple of weeks, checking with CBCs.  Boston said “let’s proceed to the transplant.”

I entered BWH in Boston on August 4th; had the high dose of chemos and a day of rest.  On August 11th I received my stem cells.   After the transplant, we waited for my body to bring up my numbers.  It just didn’t happen for me.  I had to have lots of transfusions; eventually my hemo climbed but not to norm.  I had Neupogen shots for a long time… my ANC started to hang in there.  I tried shots and pills for my platelets….nothing helped.

My routine became a weekly trip to the Cancer Center and blood work 1 to 3 times a week.  I won’t say life was “norm” but I was alive.

In the spring of 2011 my numbers started to fall.  Something was wrong.  A BMB revealed that I have Myelodysplasia.  My body was producing two abnormal cells.  Not cancer yet, but in weeks, months or perhaps years, it would be.

My Boston Oncologist thinks I may have had this all along.  It would certainly explain why my  numbers didn’t recover after the Auto.  So the search began for a donor.  I would need a mini Allo transplant.  I was told it could take months.  It didn’t…..by August I had a donor.  The roller coaster ride began again.  I knew what to expect for tests this time.

On September 12, 2011 I received my donor stem cells.  I am so amazed at how my body has responded.  My numbers are great.  I am in the norm range for whites, reds and ANC.  My platelets are almost there…..a few more thousand.  My T-cells are 83% & my chimerism is 95%.

In 9 days it will be three years since hearing I have cancer.  I try not to think about it.  I’ve never considered myself sick.  Other than losing my hair, eyebrows/eyelashes, one would not know I have cancer.  I think of it as having a condition that needs attending to.

A quote that hangs on my fridge:  “Cancer, Just stop now, you’re NEVER going to beat me….I’m 2 strong 4 YOU!