My Name Is CC, and I Am a Cancer Survivor

“Hello, my name is CC, and I am a cancer survivor.”

I never thought that those words would sit together in the same sentence, let alone with a great deal of comfort and elbow room. I never thought that the word “cancer” would be applied to me at all. And I never thought that I would carry the words with me still, after it was all over. You see, I was hoping I would be able to tuck cancer away, someplace small and sacred, and be able to forget that I was ever that sick, forget that I ever did all that chemo, and forget that my life was forever changed.

But that’s not what happened. That’s not the story.

I was young. I was active. I was social. I was ambitious in my career and excited about the future. I was a “healthy” and “normal” 29-year-old when I was diagnosed with stage IV Hodgkin lymphoma in the sleeting February of 2016. After getting totally emotionally sidelined by the diagnosis, I completed six rounds (12 infusions total) of ABVD chemotherapy. That’s a total of 36 hours in the infusion center’s bustling waiting room, 72 hours in the chemo chair, watching 259,200 drips trickle down from the chemo bag into the big blue vein in my arm. That’s 12 lightly toasted bagels from the café downstairs, an infinite number of hand holds and arm rubs from my mother, and countless times the floor dropped out from beneath me to swirl with the walls.

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With my sister, Ashley, in July 2016, before my final treatment.

When I tumbled out the other side into remission that sweaty August, I tried to pick up my life and career where I had left it, but it just wasn’t the same. Something was missing. It was like my doctor had sent me home with a stick shift when I only knew how to drive an automatic. Everything I had built for myself had seemed to disappear, sinking between my fingers. All of my dreams and my excitement for the future fell in a heap on the floor, having lost their glitter and gleam. I had to rebuild by finding and following my sense of joy, passion, peace and purpose.

My observations and perspectives surrounding my experience with cancer may ring true to anyone who has sat in that chemo chair, or who has shown up to a cocktail party with a fresh buzz cut. But more than a cancer story, my story is one of facing challenge and surviving. It is a story about the power of the physical body and the emotional self. It is a story about love. And most of all, it is story of hope, with a little bit of humor.

I want to tell my story in this blog post and in the next ones to come, with this community specifically, because this is where I came for help, too. Stay tuned. I can’t wait to share my story with you.


CCWebster_PhotoCC Webster is a recent survivor, patient of Weill Cornell Medicine/NewYork-Presbyterian (WCM/NYP), and author of So That Happened, a memoir that offers a candid reflection on her experience with cancer as a young adult. Diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma at the age of 29, CC completed treatment under Dr. John Leonard and his team at WCM/NYP’s Lymphoma Program. Now in remission, she is sharing her story, perspective, and insights in hopes of raising awareness of the disease and helping others through the battle – always with a little bit of humor. Her book is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, and through her site and publishing platform Webster Works. CC lives with her husband, Matt, in New York City.

2018 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting

The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) is the world’s leading organization for physicians and oncology professionals who care for people with cancer. Each year, ASCO’s Annual Meeting brings together over 30,000 oncology professionals from around the world to discuss state-of-the-art treatment modalities, new therapies and ongoing controversies in the field.

Our Lymphoma Program is proud to have been part of several research studies presented at this year’s meeting, contributing to new discoveries across a range of lymphoma subtypes. Here are the latest updates from our team:


T-Cell Lymphoma

An unmet treatment need exists for peripheral T-cell lymphoma patients, especially those with relapsed/refractory disease. Dr. Jia Ruan was part of a research team testing immunotherapy agent pembrolizumab within this patient population.

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Follicular Lymphoma

Dr. Peter Martin was involved in a clinical trial investigation of acalabrutinib in treatment of follicular lymphoma, which yielded promising response rates.

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Data supporting vitamin D supplementation in indolent lymphoma patients treated with rituximab were presented at this year’s meeting. Dr. John Leonard is Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian’s principal investigator evaluating the vitamin’s effects in an ongoing phase III trial. Trial information here.

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Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma (DLBCL) 

Dr. Jia Ruan was involved in the clinical trial assessment of single-agent acalabrutinib in relapsed/refractory DLBCL patients.

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Waldenstrom’s Macroglobulinemia

Dr. Richard Furman was senior author on a study demonstrating acalabrutinib as an effective and well-tolerated therapy for people with Waldenstrom’s macroglobulinemia.

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Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL)  

Dr. John Allan, along with Dr. Richard Furman, collaborated with research colleagues to investigate the demographic impact on incidence and treatment outcomes in people with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL).

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Dr. John Allan is Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian’s principal investigator for a phase II clinical trial of ibrutinib and venetoclax – two non-chemotherapeutic agents – in people with previously untreated chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). Trial information here.

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Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma

People with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) are at increased risk for developing aggressive non-Hodgkin lymphomas frequently associated with two herpes viruses: Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) and Kaposi’s sarcoma-associated herpes virus (KSHV). Weill Cornell Medicine pathologist Ethel Cesarman, MD, PhD, contributed to a phase II trial conducted through the AIDS Malignancy Consortium (AMC) to test HDAC inhibitor vorinostat’s effects on HIV-related non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

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Dr. Peter Martin, the Principal Investigator for the Lymphoma Epidemiology of Outcomes (LEO) consortium at Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, aided in a study of vulnerability to undesirable outcomes in people with newly diagnosed non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Vulnerable status was measured overall, and by age, gender and clinical features.

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As always, we are proud of our team’s active commitment to advancing the overall understanding of lymphoma and improving clinical outcomes and quality of life for all those affected by the disease.

 

WCM/NYP Partners with LLS to Host Blood Cancer Survivorship Event

Thanks to a valued partnership with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS), Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital (WCM/NYP) were proud co-hosts of “Life Beyond Blood Cancer,” a free educational event for patients and caregivers. The program explored various aspects of survivorship as experienced by people with lymphoma, leukemia, myeloma and other blood cancers.

The event drew in nearly 100 members of the New York metropolitan area’s blood cancer community for an evening of shared information and inspiration. Speakers included a range of experts across the WCM/NYP cancer care team, as well as blood cancer survivors who shared their experience and insight into living with Hodgkin lymphoma, chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) and acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).

Here are a few highlights:

WCM/NYP Lymphoma Program Chief Dr. Peter Martin explained that innovative advancements in personalized medicine, immunotherapy, and targeted therapy have positively influenced blood cancer survival rates. Almost 1.5 million people in the United States are living with lymphoma, leukemia or myeloma. Dr. Martin noted that as patients are living longer, more clinical attention should be focused on treating the whole patient and his/her needs, as opposed to treating just the cancer cells within the body.

Alan Astrow, Chief of Hematology and Oncology at NewYork-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital, explained that a cancer diagnosis can affect a patient’s life in ways that exceed the strictly medical, and many patients welcome discussion about their spiritual, religious and existential concerns. Dr. Astrow advocated for increased communication between physicians and patients regarding spiritual needs, since a clear understanding of a patient’s hopes, fears and values can provide guidance when making decisions in the face of medical uncertainty.

Kelly Trevino, PhD, a clinical psychologist at WCM/NYP with a specialization in psychosocial oncology, discussed strategies for managing the anxiety that often accompanies a cancer diagnosis. Threatening situations like cancer can lead to worry and nervousness, muscle tension, shortness of breath, tingling/numbness and difficulty concentrating – all of which can have a negative impact on quality of life. Coping strategies include deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, pursuit of distracting activities and even scheduled “worry time” to prevent anxious thoughts from infiltrating the entire day.

Three survivors across varying ages and diagnoses then shared the ups and downs of their treatment and post-treatment journeys and provided the audience with insight into life beyond cancer.

We at Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital are honored to be able to offer educational programs and resources to people affected by cancer, and we are committed to doing our best to address the needs of our patient community throughout all stages of the cancer journey.

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The event concluded with an interactive question-and-answer session between the speakers and audience, moderated by WCM/NYP outpatient oncology social worker Susan Marchal, LCSW.