What if your own body suddenly betrayed you? This is what happens when you have lymphoma. It takes its name from the body’s lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell. As part of the body’s immune system, these cells’ main function is to protect you from diseases by eliminating risks such as bacteria, viruses, and tumors. Ironically, it is these same lymphocytes where lymphoma begins.
According to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS), 80,500 new cases of lymphoma are expected to be diagnosed in 2017, with around 21,210 people expected to die from the disease. Like most types of cancer, it spreads to other parts of the body, increasing overall risk. However, this is not to say that the disease cannot be beaten. In fact, it is considered among the more curable forms of cancer, with survival rates for both Hodgkin and Non-Hodgekin types having dramatically risen in the last couple of years.
Here are inspiring stories that prove that the battle against lymphoma is one you can win:
1. Virginia Repsys
Virginia Repsys of Garfield, NJ was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma at the age of 27. Like most patients, she was devastated. She’d done her research and discovered that she had a big chance of surviving the ordeal, but her fears were not quelled. It was only after meeting with her oncologist and seeing how determined he was to help her that she truly put her game-face on.
She recommends keeping a positive perspective and surrounding yourself with supportive people. She’d go to her chemotherapy wearing nice clothes and would make it a point to smile. She held on to this determination until she finally beat the disease.
2. Michael C. Hall
One of Michael C. Hall’s most famous characters was Dexter Morgan, blood spatter analyst by day and serial killer the rest of the time. In January 2010, he announced that his affair with death went farther than his television role—he was also secretly undergoing treatment for a potentially fatal disease.
Hall admitted to feeling upset over the diagnosis as his dad died from cancer at the age of 39 (Hall was 38 when he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma) but he was glad he discovered the condition while on its early stages. He promptly when through chemotherapy once shooting for “Dexter” wrapped up and was on remission by April of the same year. He is now a spokesperson for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society where he shares his experiences and raises awareness about the disease.
3. John Kaplan
One could say that John Kaplan had seen some of the worst the world can offer. As a famed photojournalist, he’s seen everything from tornadoes in the US to armed conflict in the Philippines. He had rarely been sick, so being diagnosed with a kidney tumor and Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma at the age of 48 was a considerable blow.
What served as his tool in covering circumstances in his surroundings, he used to capture his own journey against cancer. He took his camera and started shooting photos and videos of himself as he got treated, partly to distract himself from his fears and his reality and partly to serve as an inspiration to individuals and families facing the same ordeal. He realized that a lot of positive things can come out of something so negative. Today, he has completed “Not as I Pictured,” a feature-length documentary about his experience. He aims to give away a copy of the film for free to anyone who has had cancer.
4. Gene Wilder
Born Jerome Silberman, Gene Wilder began dabbling in comedy at a very young age to try and cure his mother of rheumatic fever. By adulthood, he was a well-loved actor in theatre, TV, and film, where he played iconic characters, such as Willy Wonka in “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” In 1999, he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma at the age of 66. At the time, the disease meant possible death for Wilder.
After undergoing chemotherapy and stem cell transplant, Wilder entered remission in 2005. He died in 2016 due to complications from Alzheimer’s disease.
5. Mr. T
There are many things Mr. T is famous for, among which was his wrestling career and his role as B.A. Baracus. Even today, he remains among the symbols of the weirdly fun decade that was the 80s. Mr. T was known not just for his battles on-screen, but also for his fight with cancer off-screen. In 1995, he was diagnosed with T-cell lymphoma. He didn’t fail to make light of the diagnosis, calling it his “personalized cancer” because of its similarity with his name.
As the cancer was localized, the battle was a quick one lasting four weeks. It relapsed with a vengeance after 11 months, returning in the form of cancer sores all over his body. After years of treatment, he finally entered remission in 2001.
6. James Conner
For athletes depending on the power of their limbs, getting a torn MCL is bad enough news. James Conner had it worse—he also had stage 2 Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Since his diagnosis in December of 2015, Conner underwent chemotherapy and was clear by May of 2016. Today, he is back with the University of Pittsburgh, having proven that there is indeed life after cancer.
7. Gabriel Garcia Marquez
This Latin American writer fascinated the world with his magical realism, where he expertly used words to weave stories that tickled reader’s’ imagination and captured their adoration. In 1999, he was diagnosed with lymphatic cancer, which quickly went into remission after treatment with chemotherapy.
Garcia Marquez died in his home in Mexico City following announcement that he was suffering from dementia and was in declining health. His death was caused by pneumonia.
The battle with lymphoma is hardly an easy one. It is costly and can be emotionally and physically taxing not just for patients but also for their families. However, the battle can be won, if these stories and many others like them are to be taken as proof. Early diagnosis and appropriate treatment is key, and keeping a positive attitude and a healthy support system is a great help.