For follicular lymphoma survivor, time is on her side

When Maribeth Holzer asked her family doctor about a curious lump in her right armpit, she never suspected it was follicular lymphoma.  Her doctor said was probably an ingrown hair caused by shaving, or perhaps a blocked pore due to antiperspirant use. But when a purple, dime-sized spot suddenly appeared on Maribeth’s face, she decided to visit a dermatologist. “I felt fine,” she says, “but thought I should have that strange splotch checked out. As long as I was there, I’d ask about the armpit lump, too.” It’s a good thing she did. A biopsy revealed Maribeth had follicular lymphoma, a type of B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma that starts in the body’s immune system. Follicular lymphoma symptoms may include a lump in the armpit, neck or groin, caused by cancerous immune cells that build up in lymph nodes and cause swelling. The disease can also produce a skin rash that appears as one or more scaly red or purple patches. “Those were my only telltale signs,” Maribeth says. “Other than that, I didn’t even know anything was wrong.” The dermatologist in Maribeth’s small Louisiana town suggested she seek cancer treatment in nearby Shreveport or at MD Anderson in Houston. “Right away, I knew I wanted to go to MD Anderson,” Maribeth recalls, “but just to be sure, I asked him where he would go. He said ‘Definitely, MD Anderson.’” Days later, Maribeth and her husband made the five-and-a-half hour drive to Houston. A stage IV follicular lymphoma diagnosis At MD Anderson, lymphoma specialist Hun Lee, M.D., ordered three days of testing to confirm Maribeth’s diagnosis and see how far the cancer...