My lymphoma diagnosis: What I learned – Geoff Berman
April 8, 2015 | by Denise Heady
Geoff Berman, 61, starts his day with the motto: “The sun is up. I'm vertical. It's a good day.”
Ever since he's been in remission from lymphoma, Berman makes a special point of being grateful for each day, reminding himself that being alive is a gift. “I just enjoy living,” he said. “I give every ounce of positivity I can.”
This resolve followed Berman's diagnosis for lymphoma in 2013, just days after purchasing a new home in Palm Desert, California, with his wife. They'd planned to live there peacefully and uneventfully with their two cats.
But what Berman first thought was a pulled groin turned out to be an abdominal mass the size of a grapefruit, and he was soon diagnosed with aggressive B cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Finally, after seven rounds of chemotherapy, Berman came to City of Hope for an autologous stem cell transplant.
In this type of procedure, a patient’s own stem cells are collected and stored while the patient undergoes intensive therapy to help eliminate his or her disease. After the treatment has progressed, the stored stem cells are given back to the patient in order to rebuild the immune system.
Berman both received the transplant and celebrated his new birthday on April 8, 2014 — the same day he welcomed his first grandchild into the world, making the day even more momentous.
By September 2014, Berman’s cancer had gone into remission. Today, he's grateful to his doctors and to the staff at City of Hope, appreciating the unique care that they deliver to each patient. They even threw a mustache party for him to celebrate his departure from the hospital.
“I received wonderful care, making me feel like a person, not a patient,” Berman said.
During his journey, Berman wrote about his experience in a blog on Caring Bridge. Initially, he intended simply to update his family and friends on his treatment and health. Over time, however, blogging became therapeutic, giving him an avenue to help others going through similar experiences.
Berman both recently celebrated his first post-transplant birthday, and turned his blog into a book in hopes of reaching more people who may find his journey helpful.
Here, Berman shares some of the wisdom he gained, along with practical tips for patients who have been newly diagnosed.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions. “When it was time for my transplant, I started searching for information about the procedure and tried to find out as much as I could,” Berman said. “If I didn’t understand a procedure, I wasn’t afraid to ask. Make sure to know why and how they are doing something.”
- Stay positive. Berman made it his goal to always find a reason to stay positive every day. You don’t always have to be all “smiley,” but it’s important to try to go at each day with a positive outlook.
- Get out of the house – every day. Berman and his wife made it a point to go outside every day — even if was just for a drive to pick up dinner. “I needed to do something so I wasn’t sitting on the couch feeling sorry for myself," Berman said.
- Trust your doctors and caregivers. Let the doctors and your caregivers help you, Berman said. After all, that’s what they are there for. “I listened to my doctors, nurses and my wife and let them control what I needed to do. If there was anything left to decide when they were done, then I got to make the decision. That of course didn’t happen often.”
- Don’t just be a body lying in a bed. Try to get to know the staff you will be with every day during your hospital stay, Berman said. You don’t have to become the nurses’ best friend, but have conversations with them. It can make a huge difference during your hospital stay. “None of us want to be in the hospital, but by getting to know the folks taking care of you, you make things so much better. After all, they will be the ones who will be there to help you when you need it.”
Learn more about becoming a patient at City of Hope or getting a second opinion by visiting our website or by calling 800-826-HOPE (4673). You may also request a new patient appointment online. City of Hope staff will explain what's required for a consult at City of Hope and help you determine, before you come in, whether or not your insurance will pay for the appointment.