First Cancer Treatment in Over 16 Years

I was originally diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma back in 2004. You can read that whole story here. We got it into remission for 16 years, but it came back last December. I had to wait to get my other vaccines (pneumonia, shingles, and COVID) because the medicine we are using will render all vaccines worthless. Fortunately, it is a slow-growing form of cancer so I had time to do that. So today, I went to the Infusion center in the Huntsman Cancer Institute for my first cancer treatment in over 16 years.

My approach to beating cancer

Once again, I am employing a three-pronged approach to beating this cancer:

  1. More than anything, I need the Grace of God. If He doesn’t want me to beat this, it ain’t gonna happen. And if I am to be a follower of Jesus, then I gotta want what He wants “…Jesus fell to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, do not give me this cup of suffering. But do what you want, not what I want.
    Matthew 26:39 NCV
  2. I need prayers from as many people as possible. Maybe if enough people are praying for this, then God will think it’s a consensus and just go with it. Just kidding. That’s not how prayers work. I think the author, Max Lucado said it best: “Our prayers may be awkward. Our attempts may be feeble. But since the power of prayer is in the one who hears it and not in the one who says it, our prayers do make a difference.”
    So if you are reading this, here is my plea for you to offer up prayers on my behalf (even if it is an awkward, feeble attempt at a prayer!).
  3. I can’t just expect God to magically fix everything in my life. I have to take responsibility and action, too.“But we prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat.”
    Nehemiah 4:9 NIV
    That’s why, when we moved to Utah, I did a lot of research to find a great oncologist: Dr. Deborah Stephens, Huntsman Cancer Institute . She’s knowledgeable, she’s professional, she’s personable, and most of all, she cares. And it doesn’t hurt that she’s a fan of Rituximab. This is the name of the drug that I took in 2004 and it worked great. In about two months, the cancer was in remission. I didn’t lose my hair, I didn’t get sick, and it stayed in remission for 16 years.

Allergic Reaction

Unfortunately, this is one of the more common side effects of Rituximab. So the typical methodology is to start out slowly, then as time goes on, release more and more of the medicine – all the while watching for signs of an allergic reaction.

In 2004, soon into my first treatment, I had a pretty scary allergic reaction. My head turned all red and itchy, and it felt like someone had blown up a balloon inside my head. And I started to have trouble breathing! The nurses all jumped on me and stopped the medicine. They pumped me full of Benadryl, steroids, (and I think, epinephrine). It took about an hour to feel normal again. Then we started all over again and they wouldn’t allow me to take the Rituximab any faster after that. That meant that it took me two days just to get one dose. I really did not want to go through that again.

Today, I had an allergic reaction again. But it wasn’t as bad as last time. (I think it was because I was really watching for it this time) This time, my head started tingling a bit where the tumor was, but then my throat started feeling constricted. I pressed the nurse-call button and INSTANTLY there were about 6 nurses there! It was a little freaky to see how fast they got there! They stopped the drip immediately. They said that I was getting really red/flushed.
Now it was getting painful to swallow. But, at least, I could still breathe.! They consulted with each other for no more than 30 seconds and they agreed to a plan of action. It was kinda cool to see how well they all worked together. They gave me more Benadryl and some steroid. Once again, it took about an hour before I started feeling normal again. During that time they kept a real close watch on me, checking my vitals often. Then, to my great surprise, when they restarted the Rituximab drip, they didn’t stop at that level. They kept increasing it — and I was not having the allergic reactions! So I was able to get the whole dose in one day. (Started around 7:30am and was out of there by 3:30pm)

Thanks to all the Benadryl, I spent most of the time asleep!

I looked in a mirror on the way out, and the spot on my head (the cancer tumor) is already visibly smaller!

All in all, I’d say that I had a pretty good day at Huntsman today!

What’s Next?

I have more treatments of Rituximab over the next three Mondays. Hopefully, I won’t have to go through the allergic reaction each time. But even if I do, I have peace of mind knowing that there will be some very professional, talented folks watching over me – and there’s a good chance that I’ll still be able to get the whole dose in one day!

Best of all, I know that, no matter what I am going through, I have the love of an awesome God. I don’t understand why it is that He loves me so much, but I know He does. I know that He will always want what’s best for me and He has the power to make that happen. So, in my eyes, I have no other rational choice but to humbly accept His love and His will for my life.

Thanks for taking the time to read all this. Thanks for your prayers. God bless you!