5 lessons learned by lymphoma survivor Ben Teller

November 12, 2015 | by Veronique de Turenne

It was during his freshman year of college that Ben Teller received devastating news: he had Hodgkin lymphoma. In addition to taking classes and cramming for exams with the rest of his class, Teller, then 18, also faced the rigors and uncertainty of cancer treatment.

At the time, Teller chose to distill the experience into a series of tasks to complete; hurdles he would tackle one by one. Six months of chemotherapy led to remission, but that was soon followed by two relapses. Each time, Teller underwent a difficult and time-intensive blood stem cell transplant at City of Hope.

Then, several months after the second transplant, Teller’s doctor confirmed he was cancer-free. It was “the best day of my life,” Teller said.

Now a graduate of the University of California, Irvine, Teller is one of the inspiring patients whose stories have been collected in “The Miracle of Science with Soul”, a campaign that highlights City of Hope’s unique approach to patient treatment. Here, he shares five things he wishes he had known at the start of his treatment, shared previously on Breakthroughs.

1. Be kind to your veins.

I spent six months undergoing chemo without a PICC (peripherally inserted central catheter) line, and it was painful. Then when I got the PICC line, it was a sigh of relief. The line in my arm didn’t bother me - I didn’t even know it was there.

If I could tell myself two years ago that my veins would be shot from all the chemotherapy, I would have got a PICC line in a heartbeat.

2. Let your doctor’s caveats about side effects guide your expectations.

When you have a matched unrelated donor bone marrow transplant and they tell you that you’re probably going to go back to the next three months with a fever, expect to come back.

When I got a fever and I had to go back within 30 days, I was upset. I thought I was done with the hospital. If I had set my expectations appropriately, I wouldn’t have been as upset.

3. Do your PT.

I didn’t do physical therapy after my first transplant, and I faced muscle fatigue and muscle loss.

After my second transplant, I did physical therapy every day and it made a huge difference. It brought my energy up. It made me feel a little bit better.

4. Your mojo will return.

Cancer treatment can sap your sex drive. At 20 years old, I was honestly scared that it was never going to come back. My doctor told me it would - and he was right.

5. The nurses are there for you.

When you’re in the hospital, don’t be afraid to ask for the nurses’ help. There were times when I felt as though I was calling them in too many times in an hour.

But you can’t ever really burden those nurses. If they’ve just seen you for five minutes, don’t be afraid to call them 10 minutes later to tell them you’re not feeling well. They really do care about you and your well-being.

Learn more about our lymphoma treatments and research and our unique patient experience. If you have been diagnosed with lymphoma or are looking for a second opinion consultation about your treatment, request an appointment online or contact us at 800-826-HOPE. Please visit Making Your First Appointment for more information.


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