Single Mom Raising Four Kids And Battling cancer
- Stephanie Feeney experienced symptoms of lymphoma for months before her diagnosis, including intense itching that doctors initially misdiagnosed as cholestasis, a liver disorder. She was pregnant at the time and delivered her child three weeks early because of the risk the liver condition presents to the fetus.
- Her itching did not stop after childbirth, and she developed a dry cough. She then almost collapsed at her son’s golf tournament and the following day went to the ER where she learned that she had diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, a form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
- Feeney began R-CHOP chemotherapy days after her diagnosis, the recommended treatment for most people battling non-Hodgkin lymphoma. That is a cocktail that includes Rituximab, Cyclophosphamide, Doxorubicin Hydrochloride, Oncovin. and Prednisone.
Stephanie Feeney experienced symptoms of lymphoma for months before her diagnosis, including intense itching that doctors initially misdiagnosed as cholestasis, a liver disease.Read More
Once the child is delivered, the itching will stop, but that did not happen for Feeney. On top of that, she developed a constant, dry cough.
Other symptoms were easy to dismiss as the result of caring for a newborn baby, which is why it was not until Feeney nearly collapsed at her son’s golf match that she realized something was wrong.
“As I was walking the course, I started to get a debilitating pain in my back left shoulder blade, it then extended through my left armpit into the front of my left chest. By this time, I was having trouble walking and breathing. I started to get lightheaded and thought I was for sure going to pass out,” recalled Feeney.
“My left hand turned completely white and cold, and the tingly started in my fingertips up my arm. Immediately I thought, Oh my goodness, I am having a heart attack. Scared and panicky, I made my way back to my vehicle to lay down and wait for my son.”
The pain got worse through the evening, but Feeney ignored it and went home with her son after the match. It was not until the following day that she made the trip to the hospital.
After being evaluated by doctors, they ordered an EKG, CT scan and X-ray. A short time later, one of the doctors came in with news.
“[The doctor] explained that I had a softball size mass on my left upper lung area. It was 9 centimeters by 6 centimeters in size, which is HUGE,” said Feeney.
“He then let us know he was pretty sure I have Lymphoma cancer. Devastated, I sat there with tears rolling down my face, not able to grasp any words, and my mind just completely shut down.”
The following Monday, she was at a cancer care center while her diagnosis kept shifting from “lymphoma to lung cancer back to the Non-Hodgkin.”
In the end, Feeney’s diagnosis was diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, a common form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Feeney has wasted no time with treatment, and having just finished her fourth round of chemo, reveals that the mass is shrinking and her body is responding better than expected to the treatment. She will complete eight rounds of chemo, but doctors now believe the mass may be gone by the sixth round.
Her oldest daughter, 21, is helping with her siblings while mom deals with the side effects of treatment, and now the community is raising funds to help Feeney after she suffered another devastating blow.
“As many of you know, I could no longer work, not even a couple of hours a day. But, my work was amazing and verbally told me I would be taken care of throughout the duration of my treatment, so financially, and for insurance purposes, I would be okay,” said Feeney.
“Huge relief! However, that was all taken away from me out of the blue on October 27th. I lost pay and all benefits that come with my job. I am now a single mom of 4 with no income coming in.”
Treating Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma
Feeney began R-CHOP chemotherapy days after her diagnosis, the recommended treatment for most people battling non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
“A standard regimen for treatment of aggressive non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas, of the b-cell subtype, is frequently abbreviated R-CHOP,” explained Dr. Adrienne Phillips, associate professor of clinical medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College.
R-CHOP is a cocktail that includes:
- Rituximab. A monoclonal antibody that attaches to a specific protein called CD20, which sits on the surface of B cells. It targets the cancerous cells and destroys them.
- Cyclophosphamide. A chemotherapy drug.
- Doxorubicin hydrochloride. A chemotherapy drug.
- Oncovin. A chemotherapy drug.
- Prednisone. A steroid to combat allergic reactions given the potency of the other four drugs
“That combination is a standard for aggressive b-cell lymphomas. It’s been the standard for many years,” explained Dr. Phillips. “And there are certainly clinical trials that are looking to improve upon that standard and maybe add different medicines to the R-CHOP or remove some of the medicines to minimize toxicity, but R-CHOP is a standard for aggressive b-cell lymphomas.”
Breaking Down R-CHOP
Symptoms of non-Hodgkin lymphoma
Feeney admits now that she ignored some telltale symptoms of non-Hodgkin lymphoma before her diagnosis, which is easy to do when you are a pregnant, working single mom. Her cough and itching are among two of the most frequent signs of the disease.
The common symptoms of non-Hodgkin lymphoma include:
- Swollen lymph nodes in the neck, armpits, or groin or
- Chest pain
- Abdominal pain
- Trouble breathing
- Constant fatigue
- Night sweats
- Sudden and unexplained weight loss
Individuals who suddenly experience any of these symptoms should consider scheduling an appointment with a doctor.
Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma Symptoms