"I had swollen glands,” said Jackie, “but it wasn’t until my neck was significantly swollen that I became worried.”
The doctor in Mexico prescribed an antibiotic but said that if it didn’t help, he would need to order a biopsy. After two rounds of antibiotics, nothing had changed. Right after the two returned to the States, Jackie was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Under the care of a team at UNC that included Drs. Lee Berkowitz, Tom Shea, David Morris, and PAs Bob Irons and John Strader, and many fine nurses, Jackie underwent months of chemotherapy, two rounds of radiation, and two stem cell transplants – one using her own stem cells and one with stem cells from her brother, who, fortuitously, was a perfect match.
At one point Jackie’s mouth was so sore that she told Dr. Morris, the radiologist, that she could not handle any more treatments. Dr. Morris’ challenge “brought the fight back into her,” said Russ.
During her second stay in the hospital, Jackie accepted the challenge of the transplant unit to beat the walking record of 50 miles inside the halls of the hospital. She did so with flying colors (71 miles during her 4-week stay). When she was back in the hospital about 2 weeks later to treat an infection, she was disappointed to learn that her record had already been beaten!
Jackie has been cancer-free for over a year. “We can never repay our debt to the team of professionals at UNC Lineberger,” they say. “Our son was so inspired by the type of individuals who work here that he decided to become a nurse; he recently completed UNC’s accelerated nursing program.”
Russ and Jackie, their children, and Jackie’s brother are trying to give back by donating to the UNC Lineberger. Their children’s Christmas presents take the form of donations to charities of their choice, and they often choose the cancer hospital. How did the couple mark the anniversary of Jackie’s transplant? With a gift to the N.C. Cancer Hospital.
“This is a public cancer hospital and cancer does not discriminate,” said Russ. “Time and time again we saw adults, teenagers, and children being treated; we want to help in any way we can.”