Late effects cancers are brutal.
They not only mess with the body, but with the mind too. Just when you think you’re out of the woods with a primary cancer that has created havoc in your life not once, but twice and doctors have been wise enough to attack the cancer with the right drugs and procedures to make it disappear, ‘boom,’ it comes back as a different cancer years later and is probably the result of a treatment that wasn’t quite as solid as it should have been.
That is the story of a young woman I met recently. She was diagnosed with lymphoma at 20. That’s bad enough, but she was living in a remote part of the old USSR and her treatment was not what it should have been. When her cancer returned, she was coming to the United States and she made the choice to come to Johns Hopkins for treatment. Another very tough regiment of treatment that included a bone marrow transplant, and her lymphoma was sent packing. N-E-D. Cancer gone. New bone marrow, new immune system; healthy body.
UNTIL a few years later and she’s now faced with an entirely different cancer and her doctors are pretty sure this rare cancer comes from her first cancer and treatment.
She’s a warrior and is fighting with gusto. She says being a cancer veteran, she’s prepared for the worst but won’t allow herself to go there. “There’s too much to live for” is the way she put it.
Late effects cancers have a way of making the past, the present all over again.