Christen's Story - The Nebraska Medical Center

Uploaded by NebraskaMedCenter on 16.03.2012

I decided to go to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and I was studying journalism in the journalism
college in advertising and public relations. I also had a part-time job as a waitress.
I was always tired all the time. I always was calling in sick and I didn’t really
know why it was so hard for me.
Right when I got off of work I would just go home and sleep. I didn’t understand why
I wasn’t like the other employees there and why I couldn’t keep up. I just was totally
having flu-like symptoms. I would get the chills and then get so hot. I was having digestive
problems and I would wake up just drenched in sweat. My clothes and my sheets would be
just soaked. That’s when all the trips started to the emergency room. I made four or five
trips during the months of April and May and every time they just told me you just have
the flu. That’s when I came home to Omaha for the summer. I went to the other hospital
and I was struggling downhill from there. After a couple of days they came in after
a biopsy and told me it was cancerous but we didn’t have a diagnosis. Meanwhile, my
stomach was blowing up like I was pregnant and my lungs were filling up with fluid. I
had to have my lungs completely drained multiple times which was totally painful.
The day before we were bringing her in because she was tired and the next day she was getting
a blood transfusion and we still have no idea what is wrong with her. At this point she
was in the ICU and everyone was like, what is going on, nobody is diagnosing her or getting
to the bottom of it. It was just a big waiting game.
Then they put me on oxygen and monitoring my heart because I was up to 150 beats per
minute. It was a really scary time.
I remember my mom came in and she was like, I talked to my friend and she knows someone
at The Nebraska Medical Center. We need to get you over there right now. My mom just
told me that The Nebraska Medical Center was where I needed to be. Everyone was telling
her, if its cancer and something wrong you need to move her over to the med center.
She had to go directly to ICU at med center and within an hour you finally felt like she
was going to get a diagnosis for sure. This great doctor, who is head of OBGYN and ICU
at the med center, came in and assessed with all the interns around her bed. Every single
thing that had transpired in the month before from her night sweats to her anemia; they
were asking when it started. They were outside huddled and within I would say two hours after
we checked in to med center, several doctors came in and said we know what this is.
They came up with their diagnosis of Sporadic Burkitt’s Lymphoma, which is a type of Non-Hodgkin’s
Lymphoma. We knew she was sick so we had them take a
look at it right away. Once we had a diagnosis then we knew what to do but we’re lucky
to have several world-class humana pathologists here who were able to make the diagnosis.
The kind of lymphoma that she had was relatively rare. About two percent of lymphomas were
her type of lymphoma. This is something we don’t see every day either but we see several
cases a year. I always think it is good to go to a place that has more experience treating
this. This is one of the more aggressive and rapidly growing kinds of lymphomas maybe the
most rapidly growing kind of lymphoma there is. We have a particular regiment we use for
this and we got her started on therapy right away.
Basically they told us that chemo needs to start tonight. The doctor did come in he said,
we think we can cure this. Hearing that totally changed my outlook and made me think, ok,
maybe I am going to be ok.
I’ll never forget the one doctor in that ICU said. This is one that we can cure. If
you can be at any hospital, anywhere in the country for any cancer, this is the best one
to have and the best hospital to be in. Doctor Bierman and the other nurse practitioners
on the oncology floor were always just really great. I could tell they always had my best
interest at heart and he reassured me that I was going to be fine, this is curable, we’ll
have you out of here in a few months. Right when I got to the medical center, my mom was
just like, I can’t believe we weren’t here all this time. The level of care was
on a completely different level than what we experienced at the other hospital. It was
so clear that we were at the right place.
There is a huge difference between what one hospital prescribes as the chemotherapy regiment
versus another hospital. The Nebraska Medical Center and I can thank God now that they made
a choice to give her this particular chemo that she got.
This is one kind of lymphoma that gets treated differently than other types of lymphomas.
You have to dot the i’s and cross the t’s because the goal is to cure.
I started feeling good and you weren’t supposed to go out but I was going out because it was
summertime. My energy level felt good and I felt at that point, I kind of new that I
was healthy. Once I got the initial all clear it was just, I knew my life was going to be
completely different obviously.
A lot of the people I correspond with on these like the Burkitt’s Lymphoma site on facebook,
question where should I be getting treatment? Even before I tell them, they say they are
being sent to Omaha to go to med center. They will say they have been recommended to see
Dr. Bierman and these people are from Kansas City and a guy from New York. One of the guys
from New York said, my friends were saying aren’t there any specialists in New York?
You have to go to Omaha to find a lymphoma specialist? No one can believe it but people
are going to the med center from all over the country.
I feel so fortunate to be treated at The Nebraska Medical Center. Because my cancer was so rare,
it needed to be treated the appropriate way. So many hospitals don’t put Burkitt’s
patients on the chemo regiment that I got which is really the best one to get. They
did everything preventative so the cancer wouldn’t come back. If it’s cancer or
something serious you need to be in the best care. People come from all over the world.
There were patients from all over the world on my floor, on the oncology floor I was on.
I know from all over the United States people come to the medical center, I can’t believe
I was so fortunate to live just 10 minutes away from a world-renowned hospital.
It’s so great to see patients as they go through their treatment, of course, it’s
very difficult. They have a lot of physical changes that they have to go through, especially
for a young person that would be very difficult. She has done a great job of getting through
that and getting on to her next aspect of life and taking those things that she has
learned through her treatment to be able to help not only herself but other people. It
is really gratifying for us to see that happen. We can take someone and cure them of their
lymphoma in this case or other cancers and be able to get them back to normal life. We
have a great team here. When the patients come in we evaluate them quickly. We are fortunate
to have excellent pathology to be able to give us the answer to what type of problem
they have. They have access to all kinds of new treatments and get the patients on the
road to recovery in a very fast time. Not just with Burkitt’s patients but with every
patient. In the Midwest, we would be one of the premiere lymphoma centers and I think
if you ask anyone nationally we would be one of the premiere lymphoma centers as well.
The next step for us is to take what we built upon on and the base and try to expand upon
that with better clinical programs, additional research opportunities and new therapies and
drugs for patients. What the future holds for us is to try and take the research we
have used and developed over the last few years and develop new therapies for patients.
Based upon our research, a lot information is now being used to develop new therapies
for patients. A lot of those therapies are based upon pathways of cells so we can target
those cells just by medications that are against the lymphoma and not against the normal tissues,
so that there are fewer side effects for patients and that’s really where a lot of our research
is going.