This Shocked My World

Patient Story: Barry, Lymphoma

Barry, 53, was applying deodorant one Sunday morning in May 2021 when he felt a large lump the size of a golf ball in his armpit.

“It’s like it happened overnight,” he says. “Boom, a large bump popped out. I never noticed a thing before. “

Right away, he made an appointment to see his primary care physician, who thought the lump looked abnormal and referred him to a general surgeon for a biopsy. 

Unfortunately, the biopsy results revealed that the lump was cancerous — Barry had stage 4 diffuse large B cell lymphoma and the cancer had reached his bone marrow. The diagnosis came as a big surprise. Aside from the lump in his armpit, Barry hadn’t noticed any other symptoms and felt like the cancer appeared overnight. 

“This shocked my world,” he told us. “Overnight, my life got turned upside down.”

The silver lining in the experience came when Barry was referred to Dr. Justin Favaro at Oncology Specialists of Charlotte. Despite feeling nervous and scared about everything that was happening, Barry managed to get an appointment with Dr. Favaro that same day. Immediately, he felt confident that he was in good hands. He knew he was going to be okay from the moment Dr. Favaro told him that he’s had great success when treating lymphoma patients.

Dr. Favaro’s first order of business was to order a positron emission tomography (PET) scan, which provides important information about how much cancer is in someone’s body and how far it has spread. This was an important step so that he could design an effective treatment plan for Barry. 

Barry feels fortunate to now be in remission following a long treatment regimen that involved six rounds of high dose chemotherapy infused through an elastomeric pump, with each round separated by 21 days. The first two rounds went well and a CT scan showed that the treatment was working—Barry was 99% cancer free. But he would still need to continue with six rounds of chemotherapy for the best long-term results. 

Unfortunately, Barry’s treatment journey wasn’t all smooth sailing. After his third round of chemotherapy, Barry went to the hospital for some concerning side effects and was admitted due to a dangerously low white blood cell count. After a couple of days in the hospital and a visit with Dr. Favaro, he was able to continue on with his final two treatments. 

On September 17, 2021, Barry was declared cancer free and has remained in remission since.  Two months later, he underwent stem cell transplant at Duke Medical Center. His family, including two daughters, were a shining light and a major source of strength throughout his treatment. 

“My family is my purpose,” he says. “They fueled me.”

Barry is now working on getting his immune system back to normal. He is incorporating exercise and has seen a nutritionist, who helped him lose weight and understand that nutrition is a key component of overall health. So far, things are looking up and he’s looking forward to a future full of everything he loves, like spending time with family, golfing, and traveling. “I like to live my life to the fullest,” he says. “So I was not going to sit idle and let this lymphoma cancer get the best of me.”

Barry feels fortunate that he works for a caring and supportive employer and was able to continue to work as a medical sales representative throughout his treatment. Since being diagnosed, his perspective on life has changed in a big way. 

“I always want to be in control, but with cancer I was not in control,” he says. “What I've learned is that you cannot control every situation.” This doesn’t mean accepting a feeling of powerlessness, he explains. Instead, it’s about adopting a strong, forward-thinking outlook, knowing that this is temporary and life will get back to normal.

“Surround yourself with people who will be there for you and encourage you to believe in the power of positive thinking instead of pity and pampering,” he suggests.

Barry is extremely grateful for the kind, supportive, and skilled team of doctors and nurses that cared for him at Oncology Specialists of Charlotte; especially Dr. Favaro.

“Dr. Favaro knows what he’s doing,” Barry says. “Put your trust in him, he has your best interest at heart.”

published: Sept. 6, 2023, 1:23 p.m.

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