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Cancer Patient Prepares for Adult Stem Cell Treatment

By Sarah Poulton, The Vindicator, December 26, 2006

For the past three years, 36 year old Sabrina has been suffering from cancer that has invaded her lymph nodes, a condition that is better known as non-Hodgkin’s follicular lymphoma. After three years of chemotherapy — 13 treatments total — the mother of two young children has learned that this form of cancer is treatable but not curable.

Last summer a study was conducted under the direction of Dr. Hilliard of the University Hospital Health System in Cleveland. Sabrina was a hopeful applicant for this particular trial. However, she was unable to participate after she developed cancer in her stomach.

She plans to go to Cleveland on Wednesday for treatment that will hopefully put her cancer in remission, for good. Sabrina is not giving up any hope.

Her chemotherapy treatment will last a week. Following her chemo treatment, she will undergo a stem cell transplant. A tri-fusion catheter will be used to remove her own stem cells from her chest. The stem cells will be re-transplanted into her body to rebuild her immune system after the chemotherapy has already destroyed it.

"When this is all over, my body should see the cancer as my enemy, not my friend," Sabrina said. "Right now, it's like my body is having a party with the cancer. That party's over."

She said her immune system would take more than a year to rebuild. She will have to be cautious in public areas and get all of her childhood booster shots again.

Sabrina said she lost all of her hair during her last round of chemotherapy. She said she didn’t even notice that it was falling out at first, and that she managed to keep her hair during all her other treatments.

"It was just gone," Sabrina said. "It wouldn't hold for anything."

She said that she will donate her hair to Locks of Love as soon as it grows back after treatment. For children who have lost their own hair during medical treatment, the nonprofit charitable organization, Locks of Love, uses human hair to create wigs.

She said she wouldn’t hesitate to do it again, as she already donated 10 inches of jet-black hair to Love of Love right before she was diagnosed.

"I'm going to keep my hair this time and grow it long," Hoffman said. "When it gets long enough, I'm going to donate it again."

Sabrina said her family worries a lot, but has been supportive. Her children, Haley, 7, and Jimmy, 5, are sensitive to the situation but doing well.

"My son came up to me one day and asked how it felt when your heart hurts," Sabrina said. "He said his heart hurts now because I am leaving. He said, 'I think that's love.'"

In regards to her illness, she has been very open with her children. The family has been talking mini-vacations and spending a lot of time together since she has been planning the trip to Cleveland, but most importantly, they’ve been having a lot of heart-to-heart talks.

Sabrina said that she gets exhausted easily from her medication, so it has been difficult to keep going about her business. Her children don't understand why she can't do as much as she used to and Jimmy is especially upset because his friend recently lost his mother to cancer.

"I've been sitting and crying a lot," Sabrina said. "It's hard and it's really starting to hit home because [treatment] is so close to happening."

Many have supported her through prayer and generosity and Sabrina says that she is thankful and fortunate for all of this. To spend time with her loved ones before she left and to raise money for her treatment, her friends and family held a benefit on July 17th. She was able to purchase a laptop computer after the event raised more than $6,000 dollars. The computer will allow her to be in touch with her children while she is in Cleveland.

Sabrina has had help over the past three years from her aunt, Elvera, 76, who is a five-time cancer survivor. Elvera has endured lymphoma, breast cancer, uterine cancer, and colon cancer. She understands what Sabrina is going through since she has been though multiple radiation and chemotherapy treatments.

"Because we are sisters in the skin, we do talk a lot," Elvera said. "We're closer than just talking. I love her like my daughter."

Elvera’s wish is for the family to spend time together in Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. She said she knows that Sabrina will come through this with flying colors.

Sabrina, however, is thinking about the holidays.

"This Christmas, I'm making a point to visit all of my family," Sabrina said. "Not for the last time, but just to say goodbye for now. We've had some detours in the process, but we're almost there."


 

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