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Love, interrupted: How mantle cell lymphoma affected a 30-year reunion

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beckyandsteve.jpgBy Becky Remetta

Steve and I dated when we were in our 20s. We always had a great time together, but I was completely surprised when he asked me to marry him. I told him I needed to think about it, but the subject never came up again.  

Things happened, Steve moved to another state and after a while, we lost touch. Through the years, marriage, kids, and all that goes with life, I never forgot about Steve. He always had a special place in my heart.

Thirty years later, thanks to the Internet and Facebook, we got in touch again. When we finally saw each other, we picked up where we left off, but we still had the fun of getting to know each other again.  

A mantle cell lymphoma diagnosis
Two months after I moved in with Steve, he had his first colonoscopy. A few polyps were removed during the procedure, and we were told that he had cancer, the type that could be removed surgically.  

The next week, Steve met with a surgeon who said he had a completely different type of cancer- mantle cell lymphoma, a rare type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma that was not treatable surgically. 

I mostly felt scared and concerned, but I also felt selfishly cheated. We had already missed 30 years together, and now our time together was in danger of being cut short.

In Sept. 2012, Steve started mantle cell lymphoma treatment at MD Anderson by participating in a clinical trial. The plan was for him to undergo six to eight rounds of very aggressive chemotherapy.

The treatments were not as bad as we expected (easy for me to say), but he did have a lot of ups and downs over the next few months due to side effects from his mantle cell lymphoma treatment. Among them: weakness, headaches, leg pains, severe nosebleeds and just generally feeling "puny," in Steve's words.

Steve even developed a chest infection, which dragged him down even more. He would not eat and was so weak that he could barely stand. It was a very difficult time for both of us. I could see how miserable he was, but it was hard for me to watch him waste away and not even try to eat. Even when he would try, nothing tasted good to him, which got to be a sore spot for me. I became a nag, and he ate like a picky toddler.  

After finally getting some antibiotics, he slowly recovered. However, his platelets never did, so his chemotherapy was put on hold after just three rounds of treatment. I couldn't help but feel concerned because he hadn't had all of the treatments, but I also felt happy that he had such a great response and was doing so well.

Life after cancer treatment
Steve returned to MD Anderson for more scans in March 2013. His platelet count hadn't recovered, but more importantly, the scans showed no evidence of disease. I was afraid to get too excited, but at his last visit this past July, his oncologist said the word "remission!"  

Now, Steve is feeling great -- better than he did before his cancer diagnosis, in fact. He used to nap and watch TV most of the day, but he hasn't taken a nap in months. It's been nice to do things and have fun together, even when we're just sitting at home doing nothing in particular.

After over 30 years, Steve recently proposed again. This time I said yes without hesitation.  We know there is a chance that his lymphoma may return, but we are committed to enjoying our life together right now -- and for many years to come.

1 Comment

Your story is truly inspiring. My wife has mantle lymphoma and after being in remission for 7 months, it returned. This time more aggressive. None of the medications seems to be working. Our doctor told me that they are running out of options. He told me that we might want to start looking into clinical trials and studies. So now that's what we are doing. When I asked about the best place to go he mentioned MD Anderson. So now we are in the process of going to Houston (which is 11 hours away). I love reading your story and the stories of other survivors. it gives us hope. Thank you for you words of encouragement.

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