A Fresh Breath of Life: A Story of Lymphoma Survival

Being diagnosed with an incurable form of lymphoma didn't stop this man—or his doctors—from trying to find a way for him to survive.

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I’ve always led an active life and had an early interest in building things. I have worked in the construction industry for many years, also working on side tasks that kept me busy outside of work. One of my most cherished memories is when I restored a fishing boat and travelled up and down the coast of British Columbia. Another cherished memory, and one that remains close to my heart throughout anything that life gives me, is marrying my wife Evva, 17 years ago, in Hawaii.

Hawaii was a special place for us. Not only was it where we got married, but we vacationed there over the years. Unfortunately, those special memories took a turn for the worse when my health started to decline. While on the island, I experienced serious trouble breathing and had to be rushed to the emergency room. I received a diagnosis I never expected: follicular lymphoma—an incurable slow-growing form of blood cancer. I had been healthy my entire life, so this came as a complete shock.

After receiving excellent care at the hospital in Hawaii, I was permitted to go back to Canada. Evva and I went back to our home, Sechelt, British Columbia, with heavy hearts and an unknown future. The initial treatment I received unfortunately didn’t work, and each treatment resulted in minimal results. Within 24 hours of leaving the hospital, I would experience the all-too familiar—and terrifying—feeling of breathlessness.

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I was bed ridden and fighting the fluid building up in my lungs, and each week was another trip to the hospital to have the fluid removed–as much as 34 litres—from my lung cavity. My family was preparing to say goodbye to me. I knew I was getting worse and it was harder on Evva than it was on me. She noticed the steady decline in my health but stayed by my side and remained hopeful.

My healthcare team at the BC Cancer Agency were persistent. The treatment wasn’t working and something else had to be done. We were told about a clinical trial for Gazyva, a new follicular lymphoma treatment. I was accepted and started a treatment for patients who, like me, weren’t experiencing positive results despite treatment. After the first treatment, I felt an immediate difference. We had found something that worked! I eventually came back to my old self, able to breathe and live my life actively, the way I should.

While follicular lymphoma is incurable, I’m confident that my healthcare team will continue to support me in ways I am forever grateful for. It’s the memories that always bring me back and remind me of what’s important in life; what’s worth fighting for. While we haven’t returned to Hawaii in some time, I still think back on the good (and the difficult) memories there, and realize how far Evva and I have come. I didn’t let follicular lymphoma stop me from living my life to the fullest, and I never will.

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