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Statice / Blood Cancer

What's it like to go through blood cancer? Hear from a survivor.

An anonymous patient shares how blood cancer changed and impacted their life.

By Mehmet Mercan / Edited by Derek Chen

Updated January 14, 2023

Do you know anyone who's gone through cancer? Are you familiar with their experience? Have you had cancer yourself? In this article, we will explore the reality of experiencing life-threatening cancer, specifically Burkitt's lymphoma, following an interview with a local cancer survivor.

The Disease

Burkitt's lymphoma is an extremely rare type of B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma, NHL. Only 1,200 people are diagnosed with Burkitt's in the United States annually. Originating in the lymphatic system, a part of the body's immune system, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is among the fastest-growing and most aggressive of all cancers. Lymphocytes are a type of white blood cells that travel through the blood and lymphatic system to defend the body against foreign invaders like bacteria and viruses. Lymphoma usually develops when a change or mutation occurs within a lymphocyte, causing the mutated cell to replicate faster or live longer than a normal lymphocyte. Cancerous lymphocytes spread and grow in many parts of the body, including the lymph nodes, spleen, bone marrow, and other organs by traveling through the bloodstream and other pathways.

The Experience

For the purpose of anonymity, our patient will be referred to as Sophia. Burkitt's cancer changed Sophia's life drastically. "I was diagnosed in April of 2010. I had to go through 8 months (7 cycles) of intensive chemotherapy (6 days spent in the hospital per cycle), which took its toll. I lost all of my hair and my strength. I had to be extremely careful about washing everything and not exposing myself to any germs because I was immunocompromised after having chemo. I also had to regularly get blood transfusions, otherwise, both the white and red blood cell counts would have been too low because of the chemo."

The Recovery

Sophia wasn't only affected physically, but emotionally and mentally as well. "It was very hard for us as a family during that time. Cancer itself was very burdensome on me and my mental state, so it was a very dark time for me. Additionally, I had a 2-year-old son and a newborn girl when I was diagnosed. I didn't want to send them to daycare because of the illnesses they may bring, so it was a struggle to take care of them. Fortunately, our family and friends were a huge help to us, taking care of them and me. It was a huge struggle for me and my family."

Mentally, Sophia is doing much better now. "Now my kids are all grown up, and I'm so proud of them. I'm so grateful that I can be here and with my family, knowing that I may never have had this moment."

Sophia's experience with Burkitt's lymphoma also inspired her to pursue higher levels of education. "I had always wanted to be a doctor growing up, but I had become a biologist instead. Because of the sickness, I left my career in research and had a chance to change my career. I was inspired to go to nursing school because I was so appreciative of the great care my nurses had given me during my sickness. I graduated from nursing school 2 years ago and got a job at a local hospital. Now, I work in the Oncology unit, taking care of patients in situations like mine, and I empathize with them every day. Once again, this makes me so very thankful that I was able to recover. Recently, I started going to school again, now for my Nurse Practitioner degree. I can finally follow my childhood dreams and continue helping people as best as I can."

Not only did Sophia overcome this deadly type of cancer, but she also let the experience empower her, inspiring her to achieve greater heights. It is important that we learn from her experience and actively take measures in ensuring our own health to protect both ourselves and our loved ones.