B-cell lymphoma caregiver: Why I use my experience to help other families

I’ve known people who’ve been through cancer treatment before, but until my dad was diagnosed with stage IV B-cell lymphoma — a type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma — in October 2013, I’d never seen it up close. At the time, my mother was still recovering from a spine injury, so I became my father’s primary caregiver. I took my dad to his appointments, followed up with his doctors and organized all of his prescriptions. I also flushed out his CVC line (a catheter placed in a large vein), and when he was in isolation due to treatment complications, I was the enforcer. It was my job to make sure everyone knew what they had to do to protect him before coming inside the house, like washing their hands or putting on a mask. A B-cell lymphoma diagnosis My father’s diagnosis came as a massive shock to my family. We all knew something was wrong, but even in his late 70s, my dad was in really great shape. The only lymphoma symptoms he’d experienced were stomach pain after eating and a slight hitch in his golf swing. His doctor in Michigan said it was an ulcer and treated him for gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Eventually, an endoscopic exam revealed a spot of lymphoma in his stomach, so he came to MD Anderson for a second opinion. At MD Anderson, we learned that my dad’s B-cell lymphoma was actually stage IV instead of stage I. And not only was the disease in his stomach, he also had a tumor the size of a fist on his spine. The tumor’s tentacles stretched well...