Follicular Lymphoma Survivor

Unwavering support and love buoy survivor through cancer journey

Faye Janes is an adventurous woman who was not going to be detoured by a cancer diagnosis. Originally from Kansas, she was 42 when she went back to nursing school. She loved her profession, and the training helped sustain her when she was diagnosed with Stage I follicular lymphoma in 2005. She and her husband, Don, are now retired and spend their time as full-time RV travelers, serving as volunteer hosts at various RV sites. They have four grown sons between them and one granddaughter.

 

Before I was diagnosed with lymphoma, I had never given any thought to having cancer. I was active, enjoyed working as a nurse, and couldn’t have been happier. After all, at age 60, I met the love of my life.

So when I felt a hard lump at the nape of my neck, I just thought it was part of my neck bone. But I was working for a nurse practitioner at the time, and when she saw it, she told me I needed to have it checked right away.

I had a needle aspiration that didn’t go well, and I was referred to a surgeon. It was a scary time, but because I have an issue with my thyroid, I still didn’t think anything bad was going to happen.

Three weeks later my surgeon removed the hard lymph node, and then the phone call came: They found malignant cells. That’s when I broke out in a cold sweat. I had a moment alone that night and broke down. I called Don (who would later become my husband) and my sister. I quickly learned that Don would be my rock through my journey and beyond. He went to every appointment and was with me every step.

What could have been a very ugly experience in another place actually turned out to be wonderful. We couldn’t have asked for better care, and I had fantastic doctors. The chemotherapy infusion rooms also made a big difference. Each person had an individual room, which provided privacy, and every room was very comforting.

I started the R-Chop (rituximab – cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin, vincristine and prednisone) chemotherapy regimen and was infused every three weeks for six months. I was pleasantly surprised that I never got sick or vomited. My only problems were losing my leg strength as well as being tired, bloated and incontinent. But I continued to work throughout my treatment and could eat almost anything.

My hair, however, did fall out about two weeks after I began the chemo. A friend shaved my head and I bought a sassy blonde wig. I felt so naked with a bald head, but my wig made me look like Carol Channing.

After five treatments, Don and I traveled to my son’s wedding in Tacoma, Wash. My legs were so weak at the time and I wasn’t sure if I could make it in from the car. But to my surprise, Don proposed to me after the wedding. I remember wondering why anyone would want to inherit a wife with a problem like this, but that’s when I knew he was truly the wind beneath my wings.

I completed the chemotherapy, and we began working to get my leg muscles back. We bought bicycles, joined an athletic club and lifted weights. I was determined to reclaim my strength. It took about two years, but I finally recovered.

For the next six years, I had no unusual health issues except consistently low platelet levels. Early in 2012, routine scans indicated that my platelet level was at three – it was supposed to be above 150. A second test confirmed that my antibodies were eating my platelets. I was worried that it might be cancer again, so I repeated rituximab therapy, but it didn’t help. Of my options, I chose to have my spleen removed. Thankfully, the surgery went so well that my platelets reached a normal level and we were on the road again two weeks later.

In spite of minor neuropathy at the end of my toes, cancer has been a positive life experience for me. It let me know that I could do what I needed to do to survive. I was also so thankful to have Don walking beside me. I couldn’t have made it without him.

Just before I began the chemotherapy, my sister invited me to her church. The visiting bishop didn’t know me, but when he spoke, I felt like it was a personal message to me. He said, “Never put your feet on the starting line if you don’t see yourself at the finish line.” That stuck with me and guided me through my journey.

 

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