Susan is a cancer survivor at Oncology Specialists of Charlotte (OSC). She tells her story of what led to the diagnosis of lymphoma.

In Susan’s words:

I am a cancer survivor and would like to share my story.

In the fall of 2018, just shy of my 69th birthday, I had just moved into a new townhouse with my partner, Wayne. We blended his cat and my dog!

Near Thanksgiving I felt a bump on the roof of my mouth. The dentist and the ENT doctor thought I had burned it. My sense of taste turned bad. I remember once I was drinking red wine and thought it tasted really awful.

The lump turned out to be a “fistula”, something I had never heard of. For almost two weeks I struggled to eat. The fistula (opening in the roof of my mouth) interfered with eating and drinking. Anything that went in, came out of my nostrils. Determined to eat, I pureed foods in a blender and used a turkey baster to work around the opening.

A few days before Christmas I was so weak and dehydrated that Wayne took me to the ER at Novant Health Hospital Main.

This is where I met my oncologist Dr. Nasfat Shehadeh. He got the ball rolling. I followed up with him at Novant Cancer, but then he joined OSC, and I followed him here to get care. I am glad he stayed in Charlotte. I was concerned when Novant Cancer said he left but were unable to inform me where he went. Thanks to Google, I found him listed at OSC.

Susan, Wayne, and Toby (dog)

My ENT performed a biopsy, which turned out to be lymphoma, or the medical jargon of diffuse large B-cell lymphoma. My cancer lymph nodes were on my head, face, and neck. This is a most aggressive type of lymphoma, but the easiest to treat. In all, I had six chemotherapy treatments administered in a bed; plus four spinal treatments which were performed on a steel table and didn’t take long, thank goodness. I had to lay very till so as not to cause the needle inserted in my spinal column to move. The spinal treatments were necessary because of the location of the affected nodes so close to my brain. I recall my feelings of the chemo therapies I would have to endure. After I finished the first four chemo sessions, Dr. Shehadeh said I needed two more. I cried at the thought of more intravenous therapies, but I know I must do this for my four grandchildren.

After my last chemo, I found a fantastic dentist who made a prosthetic for my mouth in order for me to eat properly. It was a hard plastic oral appliance that hooked around my teeth. Then I had a plastic surgeon repair my mouth in May 2019 so that I could get back to a regular chewing and eating formation. I had a great team of healthcare professionals. They have turned a bad experience into a wonderful experience. I will be approaching my 4-year remission next month. Along the way, I would get bloodwork and scans to check and each time they have been clear!

I am alive, active, feel great and thank God every morning that I awake, to have a purpose that God wants me to do something today! I volunteer with Hospice. I find it rewarding to help the nurses and staff, and visit patients, and spend time with their
families. That’s it in a nutshell. I am so blessed to have Dr. Shehadeh as my oncologist!