Educating, swabbing, and running to end blood cancer!

Alison Pantuso

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I had just returned home from a summer of studying abroad in Italy, celebrated my 21st birthday with friends and family and was beginning my senior year at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. Two months into my senior year I developed a lump in my neck. I made an appointment at the University Health Center, which led to having a chest x-ray and lab work. The x-ray showed a large mass in my chest that the nurse believed to be Lymphoma. I immediately called my parents to tell them this, made the 5 hour journey back to Dallas that night and landed myself in a cancer center the next day. I began the testing routine and on November 13, 2007 my family and I were given the final diagnosis of T-cell Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. A day that forever changed us.
A few weeks later it was time to tackle the disease and get started on treatment. I began with 5 months of chemotherapy followed by a stem cell transplant and then finished up with 20 rounds of radiation. After my 5 months of chemotherapy I thought to myself “You are done! You can get back to Fayetteville with your friends and go back to having a normal college student life.” Unfortunately, it was not that easy. After completing my chemotherapy my oncologist sent me to a transplant doctor. My transplant doctor explained to me that due to the type of lymphoma that I had, without a transplant I would have a 20-50% survival rate and the cancer was sure to return in 5 years. I was so upset and discouraged by this news because it only meant a longer setback but knew deep down that a transplant had to be done.
Five years later due to a successful transplant, chemotherapy, radiation and the unforgettable support from family and friends, I have had the opportunity to graduate from college, graduate school, complete five half marathons, take on my first full marathon in February and lead that normal life we all desire to have. My courage and strength will forever come from my family who was my rock through it all, as well as, all of the continued support from friends.