Dylan had his last chemotherapy treatment two days before his seventeenth birthday. He’s on the other side now, and he isn’t looking back.
At a recent dermatology appointment, the doctor asked if he had any significant medical history. “Nope,” he replied. His mom, Dawn, was quick to make the correction, but she recognizes that Dylan’s positive attitude and matter-of-fact approach to the disease helped them all get through it.
“He never complained,” she says. “He was stronger than me. And he taught me to take one day at a time.”
It was baseball season when Dylan got sick. At first he thought he’d pulled a muscle in his back, but the pain persisted right through the summer.
Swollen lymph nodes sent him back to the doctor. Blood work and an x-ray followed. When the doctor called with the results and Dylan had to go right to the hospital, he knew something was wrong. When one of his aunts walked into his room crying, he was scared. But the oncologist sat at his bedside and told him he could ask anything he wanted.
So Dylan asked. And then he did his research. With Hodgkin's lymphoma, the cells in the lymphatic system grow abnormally and can spread beyond the lymphatic system. As the disease progresses, it compromises the body's ability to fight infection. But it’s a cancer that has effective protocols and a high survival rate, and Dylan liked his odds of beating it. He set his mind on getting through the treatment.
In all, he had five rounds of chemotherapy over a four-month period, and it certainly wasn’t easy. The medicines gave him heartburn, bloated his belly, and made him sick to his stomach. Each cycle brought with it a new side effect, from nerve damage to mouth sores. When he lost his hair, Dawn remembers thinking, “This is real.” The steroids kept him awake all night and gave him odd cravings. “The first week it was a Wendy’s baked potato. After that, hot wieners,” he laughs. Dawn admits that yes she had to go out at all hours of the night to find him the strange foods he wanted. But it was a small thing, and it made him feel better.
Friends and family stood by Dylan the whole time. Aunts accompanied him to some of his appointments and Dawn took a leave of absence from work. The baseball team visited, and the whole town came together for a basketball game dedicated to showing their support. A social kid, who likes his tribe around him, Dylan acknowledges that it felt good to know he wasn’t alone.
Both Dylan and Dawn feel tremendous gratitude toward the hospital and clinic staff, and to the people who stood by them throughout the ordeal. They give back by making donations, and by hosting celebrations for the staff and other kids still in treatment.
Dylan is a senior this year and he’s looking forward to college. He still routinely needs scans and blood work, and his heart will have to be monitored for the rest of his life due to a side effect of one of the chemo drugs, but he doesn’t think about it. He feels like himself again and that’s good enough. Dawn worries some about relapse, but not Dylan.
“If it comes back, I’ll deal with it again. I’ll do what I have to do,” he says.
And no doubt, he will.
Diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma Stage IV at 16