I was was chosen as the December 2013 Survivor of the Month at lymphomaclub.com.
“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” That is the quote that kept Our December 2013 Lymphoma Survivor of the Month, Eric Hogan, motivated to fight and win two battles with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Eric made the conscious decision not to let cancer stop him from living his life. Today, he is a 10 year survivor and employed as a nuclear medicine technologist. We are proud to share Eric’s inspiring story in his own words.
In September 2003, I was diagnosed with Stage 4, Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. I had heard of lymphoma before but didn’t know much about it. My subtype was T-Cell Rich, Large Diffuse B-Cell. The main symptom I experienced, which lead to my diagnosis was extreme back pain.
One morning in late May of 2003, I woke up with a bad pain in my lower back. I found this odd because I never really experienced back pain before, but I blew it off as sleeping on the wrong side of the bed, so to speak. There were no injuries or falls that I could remember, and I hadn’t done any lifting, so I was at a loss.
On July 1, I have my first appointment related to my pain. The doctor asked me the common questions for back pain: “Have you lifted anything heavy or fallen down?” I indicated that I hadn’t. I’m sure I was just looked at as a routine back pain case so my doctor prescribed me Lodine, an anti-inflammatory drug, hoping that would solve the problem. In addition, he sent me to have some x-rays taken. I later received a letter from my doctor stating the x-rays showed I had scoliosis, yet there was no mention of how that related to my back pain. Since the pain was not getting better, I set up another appointment with my doctor, hoping that I could get more answers about my back.
He ordered more x-rays and gave me a script for physical therapy, neither of which helped. Finally I had an MRI and awaited the results.On Tuesday September 16, I got a call from my doctor around 5:00 p.m. By the tone of his voice, I could tell something was wrong. Sounding like he was nervous, he went on to state the MRI showed I had a tumor in the bone marrow of the lumbar spine. His next sentence is what scared me. He said he was referring me to a cancer specialist.
That was a pretty scary time, and I started writing a journal documenting my experience. It helped me cope with the situation as it was an outlet for all my feelings. Those journal entries ended up becoming my book, Backbone: Battling Cancer in My Twenties. I received 8 treatments of R-CHOP chemo and later received radiation therapy to my spine as well. I was going to college full time for nuclear medicine while all this was going on, and still managed to keep up with school without taking a leave. After radiation therapy, the tumors appeared to be gone.
After having a year of being cancer-free, I relapsed and received RICE chemo, followed with a bone marrow transplant. I spent three weeks in the hospital for the transplant and it was a pretty difficult experience to go through. The transplant was in 2006, which makes it 7 years being cancer free and 10 years of being a survivor.
My support system included family and friends, but for myself I just tried to act as “normal” as possible. What I mean by that, is that I continued to do the things that made me happy and temporarily forget about my diagnosis such as going to concerts, hanging out with friends, etc. I made the conscious decision not to let cancer stop me from living my life.
As far as advice, I think the best tip I have for getting through cancer and a bone marrow transplant is maintaining a positive outlook. During my bout with cancer, though it was a very difficult time and I often felt alone, there was one underlying thought that pushed me through. I knew I was going to survive and I knew I would get better. I believed with every ounce of my being that—if I let the cancer defeat me and succumbed to the sadness, deciding to accept the thought of death—I would not be here today to write this very paragraph.
Thomas Edison was quoted in 1877 as saying, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” That is the attitude you must have in order to live the life you want and reach the goals that will ultimately fulfill your full potential. Most importantly, this was the attitude that got me through cancer treatments, trials, and hardships. I’ll be honest—sometimes it’s often hard to look at things positively, especially when everything seems to be against you. Yet if you try to live with the same outlook Edison had—that you will never give up—you will always achieve more than the people who gave up. That “more” might just be survival.
Since my bone marrow transplant, I have been great. I work as a nuclear medicine technologist in Oklahoma City and my book “Backbone: Battling Cancer in My Twenties” was released in September. As I mentioned above, the book was started as simply a journal of my thoughts at the time, but I always had the plan of releasing it to the public. It contains everything I went through at the time and if it is able to help just one person, then I will be more than happy. I think as journal is important to keep because sometimes it may be the only outlet for your feelings.
My book is available at amazon here: http://bit.ly/amazonbackbone
The book's Facebook page is here: http://bit.ly/erichogan
The website from the publisher is here: http://hogan.tateauthor.com