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!