How Gratitude Helps Cancer Warriors
- Chicago White Sox pitcher Liam Hendriks, 34, is preparing for his official return to the game after beating non-Hodgkin lymphoma earlier this year.
- Hendriks started playing for the White Sox in 2021, but he admits his cancer battle has been among his toughest challenges.
- Lymphoma is a cancer of your immune system.
- “I always advise that people understand their specific type of lymphoma because there are over 40 different types,” Dr. Elise Chong, medical oncologist at Penn Medicine, tells SurvivorNet.
- SurvivorNet experts encourage cancer warriors and their loved ones to practice gratitude. Gratitude, simply put, is being thankful for what you have and showing appreciation for it.
“It’s been a big week,” Hendriks wrote in an Instagram post.
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Hendriks credits his “positive mindset” and having a “grateful heart” for helping him get to this point in his cancer journey. He shared a collection of photos of himself preparing for his big return. He wore a black t-shirt with the words etched in white lettering, “Struck out cancer.”
According to WGN news, it’s unclear exactly when he will play in his first official game since beating cancer, but he has begun practicing with the team.
Hendriks started playing for the White Sox in 2021. He admits his cancer battle has been among his toughest challenges to date.
He shared publicly he’d been battling non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma this past January on his Instagram page.
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“You never think you will be the one who hears ‘you have cancer’ but there I was…in shock and fear not knowing what comes next,” the baseball star said.
And then, in an emotional video, Hendriks giggled with happiness as he sounded the legendary bell signifying the end of his treatment.
“Being able to ring this victory bell has been one of the most emotional things I’ve ever done,” Hendricks described on his Instagram memorializing the moment.
Understanding Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
Lymphoma is a cancer of your immune system. It starts in the lymphatic system, a network of vessels, ducts, and nodes that runs throughout your body.
This system drains excess fluid and waste from your tissues and drains them into your bloodstream. It also produces disease-fighting white blood cells called lymphocytes that defend your body against infections.
“I always advise that people understand their specific type of lymphoma because there are over 40 different types,” Dr. Elise Chong, medical oncologist at Penn Medicine, tells SurvivorNet.
Lymphoma starts when lymphocytes develop a genetic mutation that makes them multiply much faster than usual. The mutation also makes older cells that would normally die stay alive. The quickly multiplying lymphocytes start to collect and build up in your lymph nodes, the small glands in your neck, armpits, and other parts of your body.
“In the beginning of a conversation with a patient, we have to talk about exactly which type of lymphoma they have,” Dr. Lawrence Piro told SurvivorNet.
“There are some lymphomas which are very treatable, but not curable,” Dr. Piro added.
“On the contrary, there’s some lymphomas that, if you don’t treat them, they’ll progress rapidly, and you may succumb to it, yet there’s very intensive treatments that you can take that may cure you,” he adds. Diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, the most common type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma is an example of an aggressive but treatable cancer.
There are no screening tests for lymphomas and symptoms can be hard to identify so doctors typically perform a biopsy on a lymph node to accurately determine if non-Hodgkin lymphoma exists. However, some common symptoms of non-Hodgkin lymphoma include:
- Swollen glands
- Night sweats
- Weight loss
How Is Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Treated?
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma treatment depends on the type of lymphoma, the stage, and how fast it is growing. People with aggressive non-Hodgkin lymphoma can expect to get a chemotherapy combination called R-CHOP, which is a drug cocktail consisting of chemotherapy drugs, plus an antibody-drug and a steroid to treat diffuse large B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Patients receiving R-CHOP receive the drug in six cycles that are three weeks apart.
“R-CHOP is a cocktail of drugs. There are five different drugs in that recipe,” Dr. Jennifer Crombie, medical oncologist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, tells SurvivorNet.
WATCH: Understanding R-CHOP treatment.
R-CHOP side effects can include:
- Tiredness and weakness
- Hair loss
- Mouth sores
- Bruising and bleeding
- Increased risk of infection
- Appetite loss and weight loss
- Changes in bowel movements
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma can also be treated with radiation.
Expert Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma Resources
Finding Gratitude After Cancer
After a tough cancer battle, many cancer patients find and boldly express their gratitude for life and their loved ones. Hendriks said he has a “grateful heart” in his latest social media post.
Gratitude, simply put, is being thankful for what you have and showing appreciation for it. It’s a mindset that helps people going through tough times and our SurvivorNet experts encourage cancer warriors and their loved ones to practice gratitude.
Dr. Zuri Murrell, a colorectal cancer surgeon at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, told SurvivorNet that his patients who live with gratitude tend to handle treatment better because this attitude is one way to stay mentally healthy.
We all know battling cancer or disease can be extremely stressful. If you’re able to find things that you are grateful for can help manage the dress. Stress and anxiety can lead to physical issues, and practicing gratitude can help get both under control.
“The patients who do well with cancer, they live life with that kind of gratitude, but in terms of everything,” he explained. “They’re grateful, not for cancer, but they’re grateful for an opportunity to know that life is finite.”
Questions to Ask Your Doctor
- What are my treatment options based on my diagnosis?
- If I’m worried about managing the costs of cancer care, who can help me?
- What support services are available to me? To my family?
- Could this treatment affect my sex life? If so, how and for how long?
- What are the risks and possible side effects of each treatment, both in the short term and the long term?
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