The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.
2008 Henderson County Relay For Life Cancer Survivor
Robert D. Meyer was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma in June of 2003. Hodgkin's disease is a cancer believed to arise from an abnormal lymphocyte. Lymphocytes are white blood cells that help fight infections.
The exact cause of lymphoma is unknown, but researchers believe that one cause could be from environmental factors, such as pesticide exposure.
There are two main categories of lymphoma, Hodgkin's and Non-Hodgkin's. Hodgkin's is rare and it strikes men more than women.
The cure rate for Hodgkin's is much higher than Non-Hodgkin's. Symptoms of Hodgkin's are chills, unexplained weight loss, lack of energy, itchy skin, coughing, shortness of breath, night sweats and enlarged lymph nodes.
I had the following symptoms: lack of energy, itchy skin, and coughing. I didn't have night sweats or enlarged lymph nodes which the doctors found unbelievable. Our family doctor examined me and ordered blood tests and a gallbladder ultrasound. I was very jaundiced when the doctor first saw me. We were at the hospital most of the day and all the tests were coming back negative. The decision to run one more set of blood tests and do a chest x-ray came very late in the day. I had not had a chest exam for nearly 20 years. The x-ray showed a very large mass in my chest area. Our family came home that night very scared and began a journey that changed our lives forever.
I was scheduled for a chest and liver biopsy. The chest biopsy revealed changes that were suspicious for lymphoma. All of the tests were sent to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. After the liver biopsy our doctor told us he suspected cancer. It was decided to have me go to the Mayo Clinic for further tests and evaluations. Three doctor appointments were scheduled. We saw a hematologist, a thoracic surgeon and a gastroenterologist. On June 25th I was scheduled for a chest and a bone marrow biopsy at St. Mary's hospital in Rochester. The bone marrow was clean and a diagnosis of stage IV Nodular Sclerosing Hodgkin's disease was made. The cancer was both in my chest and part of the liver. I began my first chemo treatment on July 3rd.
We decided to do the chemo treatments at Mayo. I would have at least six cycles of the drug therapy ABVD. These letters stand for the 4 drugs that would be combined for my chemo. We made trips to Rochester every 2 weeks. I tolerated my chemo treatments quite well. I was given anti-nausea medication which helped me from getting sick. I was very tired and weak. I took daily injections of Neupogen which kept my platelet count up so I could stay on a regular schedule. My wife gave most of my shots to me at home. I was very tolerant of her learning to stick me with a needle every day.
During this time I was unable to work at my job with Farmland Foods in Monmouth or work on our family farm. I was put on a medical leave of absence for one whole year. I returned to my job in June of 2004. The crop had already been planted and our children took over the day-to-day chores on the farm. The biggest concern was that I not be exposed to infections or diseases because of my weakened immune system.
The drugs that were being used for chemo were very damaging to other parts of my body. I chose not to have a port put in my chest to administer the chemo. Instead they used a vein in one of my arms each time. In the end this caused my veins to be damaged and it is still very difficult to draw blood from either of my arms. After the fourth cycle of chemo my echo cardiogram showed a decrease in the left ventricular systolic functions of my heart. I was told that the decrease was possibly related to the use of anthracycline, a chemo drug. My doctor still wanted to try and complete six cycles of ABVD. When I returned for the beginning of the sixth cycle, my echo cardiogram showed an even lower decrease in the systolic heart function so it was decided to stop using the ABVD therapy and start MOPP an older chemo drug therapy. I completed two cycles of MOPP.
I became very ill on January 31, 2004 and was admitted to Great River Medical Center. I spent three days there. My doctor decided to transfer me to St. Mary's Hospital in Rochester after talking with my doctor at Mayo's. I was taken by ambulance on a very cold blizzard like evening. My wife, my oldest daughter Tricia and my 2 year old granddaughter drove behind the ambulance. I spent another six days in the hospital in Rochester. The diagnosis was made of organizing fibrinous pneumonia without any evidence of infection. It was a very serious condition brought on by Bleomycin, one of the chemo drugs. I was on steroid therapy for several weeks after being discharged.
I was given a PET scan at the end of February 2004 and I was told on March 11th that I was in complete remission. It has been four years now since my cancer journey began.
I am so blessed to have the support of my family, friends and my church family at Rozetta Baptist Church. I was held up in prayer from the first day that I was diagnosed with cancer and the prayers still continue on today. There were so many acts of kindness and love shown to me and my family. Area neighbors rallied together and harvested my crops in the fall of 2003. The church ladies served all of them a wonderful noon meal. Neighbors and family members took turns driving us to Rochester for my appointments. They were there to drive me in bad weather or on days when my wife could not be gone from work. They were always willing to take time out of their busy schedules for my medical needs. There were times of discouragement, but I always clung to the promises of the Lord and firmly believe He was with me. Through the strength of God I learned to let go and accept the future, leaving it all in His hands. In the place of fear and depression I was filled with His peace.
My parents are the late Glen and Jean Meyer. I am married to LuAnn (Lumbeck) Meyer and we are the parents of Tricia (Ron) Wayland, Heather (Tadd) Zieglowsky, Jaime (Joe) Ballard and Jeremy (Billie) Meyer. We are also grandparents to Robert and Taylor Wayland, Ethan and Caleb Zieglowsky and Michaela Meyer.