stage 3 advanced Hodgkin lymphoma (HL)
My journey with The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) began in the summer of 2020. My 17-year-old, two-sport athlete son Jimmy came to me complaining that he had pulled a muscle in his neck lifting weights for football and baseball. However, after many doctors’ appointments and tests, on June 12, 2020, in the middle of a pandemic, I received a call that his biopsy was indeed cancer, stage 3 advanced Hodgkin lymphoma (HL). I now had to tell my 17-year-old son that his worst fear was now a reality.
“Why me?” was Jimmy’s first reaction. But Jimmy’s family, teammates, coaches, friends, and our community quickly rallied behind us. They coordinated meals, fundraising for medical expenses, and showed up on chemo days to send us off with positive vibes and cheers for our fight. Jimmy quickly decided that instead of feeling sorry for himself, and after what he calls denial, confusion, and fear . . . “Why NOT me?” was going to be his mantra. He needed to embrace this diagnosis and the battle for the fight for his life.
We began our fight at RUSH hospital with an amazing oncologist hematologist. Jimmy was scheduled for 12 rounds of very aggressive chemo. Every other week we would go to RUSH for an 8-10-hour chemo infusion day that left Jimmy extremely sick, debilitated, and often bedridden for days. Jimmy decided to participate in a clinical trial for a substitution of one of the chemo drugs that had been used in relapsed HL patients that doctors suspected could help advanced cancer patients. This trial is decreasing the use of post-chemo radiation in advanced-stage HL patients, thus, also decreasing the chances of developing other types of cancer these patients can be at high risk for. Trials like these are only available, in part, because of LLS and the fundraising and promotion of research for blood cancers.
Jimmy never gave up. He was determined to return to play football and baseball his senior year. He was determined to kick cancer’s butt. In January 2021, we received the exciting news that Jimmy had indeed done just that. He was in remission. He had made a deal with his oncologist that if he could get into remission, he wanted his port removed immediately so he could have a chance to play sports for his senior year of high school. Sure enough, five weeks later, Jimmy was in full pads practicing with his football team. Coincidentally, the day Jimmy found out he was in remission was the day the IHSA said that there would be a spring high school football season. He ended up scoring the first touchdown of the team’s first game and receiving the Chicago Bears All-Star Player of the week for Illinois.
Besides Jimmy’s resolve, LLS helped us beat cancer. LLS helped support us every SINGLE step of the way. They offered us resources, connected us with other families who knew what we were going through, and even sent Christmas presents to Jimmy on Christmas Eve. Clinical trials and new treatments are only available because of the continued fundraising from LLS. NONE of this support is available to families like ours without LLS and the fundraising dollars and events, community outreach and education, patient advocacy, and more. LLS is committed to helping blood cancer patients, and that saves lives. Jimmy is PROOF of that.
Jimmy has recently “graduated” to get checkups every six months for the next two to three years. I’m also very proud to share that he is currently attending the University of Wisconsin at Madison studying biomedical engineering. Jimmy was a Light The Night (LTN) 2021 Honored Hero. He is also a 2022-2023 recipient of the LLS Scholarship for Blood Cancer Survivors, just another example of how LLS is supporting us still every day. This is also why I am committed to volunteering with LLS and helping the cause!
Written by mother.