Ben is the best person I know. He is smart, funny, and kindhearted. He loves animals, playing the guitar, and he’s always willing to lend a helping hand. He lives in Richmond, Virginia with his significant other, Cathleen, and her son, Matt. Ben is my big brother, he is 30 years old.
Ben has cancer.
Stage 4, diffuse large b-cell lymphoma with a non-germinal center, to be exact.
I saw Ben on January 8... he showed me a swollen lymph node on the right side of his jawline. He said he would get it checked out, but we both knew it wasn’t a big deal.
The doctors put him on antibiotics to treat whatever infection he may have. When that didn’t work, he was sent to see an ENT... more antibiotics.
A few weeks later, I get a call from my brother. He tells me that the swelling hasn’t changed and that on Monday, February 12, he would be having a biopsy to check for lymphoma. This can’t be. He’s so young and so healthy. We are supposed to get results on Thursday... we’re anxious, but we are positive. Thursday rolls around and I’m waiting for the “all good” text, and to my horror, it doesn’t come. Instead, a phone call. Non-Hodgkins lymphoma.
“But don’t worry,” Ben tells me, “apparently lymphoma is an easily treated cancer, and everyone beats it.” I breathe a small sigh of relief.
I fly to Virginia to be with my brother during his first round of chemo set to start on February 28th. He already has his chest port in and he’s ready to go. Eight rounds of the standard lymphoma chemotherapy regimen and he should be “cured.”
We go to meet with Ben’s oncologist the day before his first treatment to get the results of the CT and PET scans. Bad news. As it turns out, Ben’s lymphoma has spread from his neck to other lymph nodes throughout his body. It has also metastasized to his abdominal muscles. This makes him stage 4. Additionally, having a non-germinal center subtype, makes the “garden variety lymphoma chemo” only 50% effective. The oncologist tells us that we need to find a cancer center that will offer a clinical trial, and that we need to act quickly.
MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston is our answer.
Ben is now part of a clinical trial called “Smart Start.” He will have 8 rounds of chemo, every 21 days. The first two rounds will be the trial drugs and will be out-patient procedures. The last six rounds will be the trial drugs plus an extremely aggressive chemo that will require him to be hospitalized for 5 days during his treatment.
Ben will be unable to work during the next 8 months (minimum.) He pays a $50 co-pay for every doctor’s visit. He has to pay for prescriptions. He will need additional CT and PET scans throughout his treatment. He will have to fly from Richmond to Houston for each cycle of chemo, and he may end up needing to find housing in Houston near MD Anderson Cancer Center if travel becomes too much of a strain.
Ben is a recruiter who makes a base salary plus commission. The short term disability will only pay a portion of his base salary. This is nowhere near enough to cover his expenses.
So now it’s our time to help Ben. Please consider a donation, a share, thoughts, or prayers... any and all are greatly appreciated.
Thanks in advance for your support for my brother and friend.
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