"It's amazing the kinds of treatments they can do now. They do so many modern things these days; you just can't believe it."
– Rich Gilbert
Rich says he's read statistics about cancer survival that can be discouraging. But as a 12-year survivor of Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma, he is optimistic about his future and the future of cancer care. Rich is living proof that early cancer detection, state-of-the-art medical treatments, and genuine concern from caregivers, whom Rich fondly regards as close friends, can make all the difference.
In 1984, Rich first noticed his glands were unusually swollen, and he visited the doctor several times. Each time, he got a clean bill of health. But Rich continued to monitor his health and persisted about his swollen glands. He knew something wasn't right. He visited an oncologist and had a biopsy that determined that he had Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma – a type of cancer where the cancerous cells grow in the lymph glands and quickly spread through the body's lymph system.
Rich successfully endured six chemotherapy treatments – one every three weeks. All signs showed that the cancer was gone. But two years later, he noticed another tiny growth in his cheek. So at a routine follow-up visit, he asked his doctor to check it out. His cancer had returned.
This time, his treatments were far more aggressive. Fortunately, his cancer had not yet spread to his liver. So Rich was able to benefit from the somewhat new technology of stem-cell transplant – harvesting a patient's own young blood cells and then giving them back after receiving high doses of chemotherapy and radiation.
"Five weeks after the chemo and radiation, my white count was down to nothing," Rich says. "But now they do stem cells. They drew my blood, and then they gave me my stem cells back. It takes about 10 days for it to grow into your bone marrow and produce new cells."
Now, Rich says, he doesn't feel any bumps or anything. "I feel good," Rich says. "They sure have come a long way. My dad back in '61 had something, and we didn't know what it was really. When I read the death certificate he had a type of Lymphoma."
"But it's amazing the kinds of treatments they can do now. They do so many modern things these days; you just can't believe it."
Today, Rich enjoys spending time with his grandchildren and following his favorite sports teams. He says he feels blessed to have had the best treatment by the best caregivers available.
"I see these nurses and the doctors – and they really do care," Rich says. "They are genuinely concerned. Every six months my doctor checks on me. And sometimes it's not just to do that. He takes the time to talk to me. We talk about BYU football and basketball, and we're just good friends."