Sharon: Hear me roar! Beat Lymphoma

Hi, my name is Sharon Thomas and I am 51 years old, single, live alone and fighting stage 4 Large T Cell Lymphoma, negative.  This means that I am one of the 15% of all Lymphoma cases.  Yes, I am pretty special!!!  So let me tell you how it began.

Back in late August, 2014, I starting having trouble with my lower back.  I orginally thought that I had just moved wrong and tweeked it as I had ruptured L5,S1 15 years ago.  So I made an appointment with my chiropractor for an ajustment.  Unfortunately, after 3 sessions, the pain had moved into the top of my right thigh and it felt like it was on fire.  So at the beginning of September, I made an appointment with my primary care doctor so I could have an MRI.  Well, the first MRI turned into a second MRI with contrast as they saw something unusual.  After the second one, they determined that there was a mass in my right psoas muscle.  Gee, no wonder I was not walking correctly, and could not lay flat in bed or sleep on my right side.  This was this biggest bummer of all.

The next step was a biopsy of this mass in the psoas muscle.  This occured in mid-September.   Now the waiting began.  At this point, I was missing work and in constant pain which I rated at a 10 every day.

It is now early October and I am still waiting on a complete diagnosis.  Move ahead a couple of weeks to mid-October and I have also had a bone marrow biopsy.  I also had been assigned an Oncologist, Dr. Preston Gladney (she is awesome!) and a transplant Doctor (Dr. Sohl) and appointments with both.  My first appointment was with Dr. Sohl of the Bone & Marrow Transplant Group on October 20th.  It is at this time that I got the official diagnosis.  The only reason why it took so long for this to occur, was because you guessed it!!!  I am special.  My type of Lymphoma is rare and they wanted to make sure that they had the correct diagnosis.  Dr. Sohl explained that my odds for a longer life and less chance of reoccurence was to have a stem cell transplant after my first remission.  This was a no-brainer!!!.  I met with Dr. Gladney on October 22nd and my chemo regimen was set. 

6 rounds of chemo
PET scan after the 3rd round (major success!!!)
After the 6th round, verification of remission.

Being a very strong individual and having faith and the belief of prayer; I would only have the 6 rounds of chemo, be in remission and proceed with the transplant.  So, chemo started on October 30th and every other week with the last round on January 7th.  I was pain free after this first round!!!!!!

In the meantime, all of my co-workers took up funds and also had a bake sale on my behalf during October and November.  They raised over two thousand dollars.  WOW!!!!  I really felt blessed.  This money came in handy as I had to go on short term disability  in mid-October and was only receiving $325/week gross on STD.  The net payment doesn't even cover my mortage payment.  Not only was I blessed to have great co-workers, but very wonderful parents.  They have been helping me out with keeping a roof over my head. 

Happy New Year 2015!!!! Now the work begins.  As I stated above, my last round of chemo is January 7th.  I will begin the transplant process on January 19th!!!!!  Yes, I am doing it!!!!! My transplant will be using my own stem cells as the Lymphoma is not in my bone marrow.  This whole process will take between 6 an 8 weeks and I will have to be away from home for a good majority of this time. 

Hype up my production of stem cells in my blood
Harvest the stem cells
Kill all the bone marrow with high doses of chemo

I will have to be in isolation (away from home & in an extended stay hotel near the hospital) beginning at the time of harvesting.  I will also need to have a caregiver with me 24/7 as there are potential side effects and illness due to no imune system during this whole process.  Along with this, I will have co-pays for visits and procedures, prescription costs as well as basic living expenses for not only at the hotel, but my home as well. 

I am very fortunate to have wonderful friends and family & have my caregivers lined up.  Because I really have to stay stress free, I am trying not to wory about the costs of this procedure and what Insurance will & will not cover.  Even though my parents are willing and able to assist with some of these costs, they are retired and on a fixed income.  Plus I am a very strong, independent person and need to do this on my own.

I have frequently laughed at myself during this whole process because I know that a positive and upbeat attitude are everything when fighting & kicking Lymphoma's butt.  I will be retuning to work in early April and cannot wait as I LOVE my job!!!!

Thank you,
Sharon :)


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Sharon M. Thomas 
Dawsonville, GA
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