Annette’s Cancer Story: My Battle with Brain Lymphoma & Beyond

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Written by S. Wang

If my diagnosis were five years earlier, I wouldn’t be having this conversation, and more likely, if my diagnosis is going forward five years later. It would be a whole other conversation – Annette R.

Listening to the Signs

Annette’s cancer story started back in 2015. At that time, she was a full-time university professor, a treasurer for a non-profit board, and a partial caregiver for her mother. Life went well until several incidents while driving made her believe something was wrong with her body. She crashed the right-side tire into a curb and could not hook herself into the seat belt. So she contacted her physician immediately.

Her ear, nose, and throat doctor told Annette that her balance was off. More severely, a radiologist said he saw a mass in Annette’s brain after examining her MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging), recommended by an ophthalmologist. Annette then went to New York for the biopsy as the next step. Luckily the situation took a turn for the better.

“The good news is, if there is good news, that it was a lymphoma which is treatable, and we found out that the rest of my body did not have any cancer in it” said Annette.

Enduring Cancer Treatment

Annette got into a specialized cancer hospital in New York. From there, she learned that neither radiation nor surgery is necessary for lymphomas, but chemotherapy is a better option for her. However, there was a 60 or 70 percent chance for recurrence. The research team will conduct the stem cell transplant project to improve the recurrence. The treatment started with extremely intense chemotherapy, which wiped out everything in Annette’s body. After that, the transfusion was followed by putting the stem cells back in.

Annette stayed in the hospital for 45 days for several complications and another month of rehabilitation before she went home. She was too weak to contact people unless the visitors wore the mask.

Annette constantly monitored her blood system in the following days and underwent two platelet transfusions. “I learned to give myself neurogenic injection for increasing my white cell count,” Annette said proudly. She also went to the stage of nail replacement and hair regrowth.

Advice for Cancer Patients from a Survivor

After experiencing so many and still having the regular examination every half year, Annette summarized several pieces of advice for someone currently going through medical procedures.

  1. Be your own advocate.

“If you hear something you don’t understand, then don’t be afraid to ask.”

  1. Always bring someone with you.

“Bring somebody with you at these meetings if you possibly can because it’s tough to remember everything that’s said while you go through all of this.”

  1. Accept help. Let people help you.

“So many people wanted to be of help, and my natural nature is to say ‘No, Thank You.’ but it is really useful to have people help you, get you food, visit you. So, I believe having friends, family, and support is really important.”

Advice for Cancer Patients

The Impact of Investing in Cancer Research

“If my diagnosis were five years earlier, I wouldn’t be having this conversation, and more likely, if my diagnosis is going forward five years later. It would be a whole other conversation,” said Annette, “I think that an organization like the National Foundation for Cancer Research who takes donations and uses them to further the research and treatment of, and hopefully, the cure of certain cancers is a very worthwhile pursuit.”

Annette is alive today because of NFCR Supporters’ generous gifts and critical research advancements. As part of the NFCR family, you give hope to cancer patients like Annette. However, many other patients like Annette are waiting for a breakthrough that could save their lives.

Let’s shed light on lymphoma cancers for World Lymphoma Awareness Day, September 15th. Donate to life-saving cancer research, understand signs and symptoms, and increase lymphoma awareness by sharing this information with your friends and family.

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