The diagnosis came in as Stage 4 Mantle Cell Lymphoma, a rare type of B-Cell Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. It is 40% in my bone marrow (apparently common with this type) which is what puts it in the Stage 4 category. Other than the bone marrow, the cancer is only in the lymph nodes in my neck. Only 5% of the people with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma have this rare type and I don’t even fit the usual “men over 60” profile. What this means is that I no longer have the “best kind of cancer to get”, as one doctor said when it was considered Low-Grade B-Cell Lymphoma. This variety requires more aggressive treatment. I get to pick between three different chemo cocktails options followed by a (recommended) stem-cell transplant.
The difference between the three chemo options is the level of toxicity. How does one decide this kind of thing? “Yes! Sign me up for the most toxic one possible! I can’t wait!” It is so appealing to go the lighter route. I probably wouldn’t even lose my hair. According to my doctor, who is highly respected and even famous in the field, the difference between the three is how likely the Mantle Cell will come back. Apparently these little buggers like to hide out and not get fully killed off and then come back. So this is a concern.
I really wrestled with the toxicity issue being an all natural kind of gal. I could have chosen a less toxic chemotherapy but they’ve been shown to be less effective against Mantle Cell. Several doctors told me to not mess around with this–even naturopathic doctors said chemo is the way to kill it. All those books and stories about people who cured themselves of cancer without chemo? They didn’t have Mantle Cell.
After a lot of soul searching and weighing the options I made my choice. Because I’m strong and otherwise perfectly healthy, I decided to go for the full on assault. Bring on the heavy artillery! I want this bad boy gone. I ended up going nuclear because I felt it has the highest chance of a cure (and I’m healthy and strong enough to handle it). This approach requires 4 to 5 day stays in the hospital and a 21 day cycle. 4 rounds and it will be full remission. Full remission is what I’m going for. Then I get to decide about a stem-cell transplant.
It will not be easy and I will have a lot of groundwork to catch up on afterward rebuilding my immune system back up. But I know a lot about that and I’m up for it. What I am not interested in is a relapse. Anti-cancer lifestyle is the new normal.
What this decision came down to was really about my future, not the present in terms of treatment. I have two sweet children. I want more than anything to see them grow up, take on life, have a family of their own. I want to play with my future grandchildren. This is my reason for going for it. I am going to win this battle to be around for all of that. I have a wonderful life, with beautiful loving family and friends. I want to spend a whole lot more time with them.