“Some people live a long time with it, and some people don’t live as long with it. We were told that treatment could put my cancer to sleep for awhile, but it is never going to go away,” Laura Pattermann says of her lymphoma diagnosis. Laura had just been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin follicular lymphoma, a relatively slow-growing but incurable lymphoma. A small bump on her upper leg that had grown larger over the course of two months had brought Laura to Methodist Hospital for surgery by Dr. Gregory Eakins. Laura was shocked by the news of the cancer; she considered herself active and healthy and is not a typical lymphoma patient.
Preparing for the treatment to come, Laura and her husband T.J., began tackling one challenge after another, including last-minute details as chairs of the Iowa Western Community College Black Tie Harvest for Scholarships. “We had a lot of help, and it was a wonderful event,” Laura explains. It was also one of Laura’s last opportunities to be out in public for six months, because her treatment involved a rigorous course of chemotherapy with a difficult set of side effects.
Again and again, the lymphoma tested Laura’s courage. First, Laura battled relentless nausea, vomiting and fatigue with chemotherapy. Radiation therapy followed with its own set of challenges, and Laura’s compromised immune system led to one health crisis after another. Laura suffered double pneumonia after exposure to mold and was hospitalized for acute respiratory distress from a common respiratory virus. A return of night sweats was especially worrisome, though this was her body’s response to a fungal infection, not a sign the cancer was growing.
While the Pattermanns are thrilled to be able to celebrate the cancer’s remission, Laura says, “My doctors made no bones about the fact that it’s probably coming back.” Laura remains optimistic, reassuring family and friends that she plans to make a place for herself in the history books, saying, “I’m going to be the first one cured of this lymphoma.”
In the meantime, she is making the most of every moment.
“A cancer diagnosis is not the worst thing that could happen to me. I can deal with it,” Laura explains. “The worst thing would be if this happened to my kids or husband or parents.”