By Gayle VanVooren
Dealing with everyday life can be a stressful situation. Throw in a few bouts of cancer, and the story is completely different.
This week a visit with Corky DeCock gives each of us a closer look at non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL), a cancer that Corky has survived.
She has been cancer free for about four years now and said, “I can’t believe how blessed we are. With this type of lymphoma, it makes you more aware of what life is really about.”
Corky grew up in Marshall, and graduated from Central Catholic High School. She and Jim were married in 1956 and they were blessed with ten children. The Minneota couple now has 26 grandchildren, 27 great-grandchildren and another on the way.
She has been a devoted wife, mother and grandmother, has been an active member of the Church of St. Edward, and has a whole host of activities: playing cards, cooking, cleaning her home, dancing, swimming, following the grandkids in their events, travelling, and giving dinner parties for family and friends. Support from those family members and friends has been a big part of her success story.
Back in 2001, Corky “found a lump on the roof of my mouth.” She went to her family doctor in Canby who suggested she visit the local dentist. She was referred to an oral surgeon in Mankato, where they removed the lump and placed a plastic plate over the roof of her mouth to protect it.
She returned, with her daughter Janice, some three weeks later and the results had come back: non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. “I didn’t know what to do,” said Corky. “We didn’t know what it was, what to expect, so we just drove back to Minneota.”
At first, Corky was going to keep this news to herself, but then felt that she needed support from family and friends. “Those prayers were very important,” she said, as she remembered the long months of struggling.
Her family doctor spoke of a specialist, but visits with family members made her realize Rochester would be a better choice.
The Canby doctors very quickly and willingly made the arrangements and Corky was on her way.
Oncologists suggested to “just watch it for now, as it was a very slow growing cancer”.
But about six months later, she found another lump under her tongue, and then another growth was found in her neck. They were removed and she began chemotherapy treatment after a couple weeks of healing.
“I began infusion”, said Corky, “and it wasn’t too bad, except they neglected to give me anything for nausea.” She got very sick that night, with prescription medication helping that problem the next day.
She returned to Rochester every six weeks for six months for infusions, which was then followed by Rituxan ongoing therapy every six months for two years. A daughter, Julie, lives in Rochester, which made it easier for Corky and Jim as they made so many trips to that area for treatment.
She was then free of cancer for about two years.
Corky then found another lump in her mouth and began treatments again, this time getting very sick and being hospitalized for about eleven days. She started R-CHOP, which is now considered a standard treatment for this type of NHL.
Then began a series of checkups, with Corky now going only twice a year. She is, once again, cancer free.
Corky talked about cancer being in some of the older generations in her family, and that colon cancer does run in Jim’s side of the family. She said, “About 15 years ago they found he had a small spot. It was contained, and removed, and he is fine today.”
Corky thought back to when she found that first lump and admitted, “It wasn’t very long after I felt the lump that I went in to the doctor. I knew it wasn’t right when I had a lump in my mouth.”
Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma has such symptoms as swollen lymph nodes, coughing and shortness of breath. These are often mistaken for other illnesses, like infections. It’s a cancer of the white blood cells in the lymphatic system and is the sixth most frequently diagnosed cancer in the United States.
But in Corky’s case, she had no prior symptoms, but her quickness to act was a very positive response.
She said, “I discovered that you have to be proactive about your own health. Especially with cancer, you have to get moving!”
Corky is a definite inspiration to all cancer patients, for she’s proof that life doesn’t stop after a cancer diagnosis. She continued to live her life, and now is so grateful for the time she’s had with family and friends.
She admonished everyone by saying, “If you find an unusual lump anywhere, you should get to the doctor right away!”
September is Leukemia and Lymphoma Awareness Month, and Corky’s story has given us a realization that non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma can be treated. She is living proof!