Young Adult Story: Tom


In December of 2006 I was diagnosed with stage IV Hodgkin?s lymphoma. I had been living in New York City and was only home for Thanksgiving. I had just signed a two-year lease on an apartment and had a follow-up interview with a publishing firm when I returned. I told my mom about the night sweats I?d been having and the fevers I was experiencing every evening while back in Austin. On Thanksgiving Day I went to an urgent care facility where the dominoes were set into play?

December 4th was my official diagnosis, and on December 20th of 2006 I began dose-escalated BEACOPP for my lymphoma. After five months of chemotherapy I underwent 24 days of targeted radiation, finishing treatment June 29th, 2007. I have been in remission ever since.

I was lucky that not only did the treatment work for me but that I was correctly and quickly diagnosed and began treatment soon thereafter. As is often the case, young adults are mis- and undiagnosed for weeks, months, or even years because ?you?re too young to have cancer.? I was also lucky that I had health insurance because so many young adults ? out of college, but not in a career-path job ? are uninsured which complicates the already rocky cancer experience tenfold.

I was also fortunate to find Planet Cancer ? a community of support for young adults with cancer ? to help me through my cancer experience. I attended one of their retreats soon after finishing treatment and was introduced to an amazing group of young adult patients and survivors. To hear and relate to their stories was incredibly therapeutic and helped me understand that I was not alone. In fact, 70,000 young adults are diagnosed in the United States every year. Sadly, survival rates for them have not gone up in three decades whereas survival rates for pediatric and older adult cancers continue to climb.

It is unfortunate that young adults with cancer are so often overlooked, but that is what NYACW is about ? advocating on the behalf of the nearly million young adult patients and survivors living in the US to make sure that those in the future will not be misdiagnosed, uninsured, or overlooked.



  1. Robert says:

    Well! You are looking great! Keep living strong! Remember you are blessed with Life. Share that story and know that God gave you more breath in your lungs for a reason!

  2. JoAnne says:

    I am so happy that you had a good outcome. I have a first cousin who is in remission with lymphoma. She was diagnosed several years ago and has had only 1 relapse. Unfortunately we have cancer down both sides
    of our family but it till now has only affected the
    males. She is the only female that has ever been diagnosed with cancer. She lost her father to cancer many years ago. Lung/to remission/to lung/to bone/to brain. He chose not to take care himself after remission. Thanks for your bright light and keep up the good work. God bless and keep you in remission.

  3. Shawna Smith says:

    What an incredible story you have! I too am a Lymphoma Survivor. Diagnosed May 2005 (hard to believe next month is my 5 year milestone!)with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at the age of 31 with two small children at home. It was a difficult journey but blessed to say I’ve been in remission now for 3 years!! I pray that you’ll continue to stay healthy! God Bless!

  4. Antonia Gavrilis says:

    Tom – I had no idea! Thank you so much for sharing your story, makes you even cooler that you beat cancer’s ugly arse!


  5. Amy says:

    Great to hear your story! I too kicked stage 4 hodgkins lymphoma right in the arse!!
    At 20 years old with twin daughters 20 months old, the first few Dr’s I saw gave me and my family very bleek hope. We are made up of fighters and moved on until we found a Dr. who said to me, “I will give you the medication, you determine if you live.”
    I began taking chemo very quickly after meeting him twice a week for 4 months, radiation 5 days a week for 2 months then 4 more months of chemo. My last Chemo treatment was on December 15, 1992, 10 days before my 21st birthday!
    I have been in remission and living strong for 17 years now.
    I still get the occasional why are you here looks and comments when I go in for my annual mammograms, it continues to amaze me as I am no young adult anymore :)
    Thanks again for sharing your story.
    PS: love that t-shirt, I think I need one myself :)

  6. Rachel says:

    Very inspiring. Thanks for sharing. It helps to hear success stories from other young survivors, especially those in Austin. I was diagnosed with breast cancer 9/25/09 and am thankfully doing well after surgery and chemo. I have been writing about my journey as well on my blog.

    I think it’s so important to get word out about cancer to young adults. Thankfully I was persistent and got my doctors to listen to me. A few different doctors all though I had a cyst, but thankfully I pushed to have it check out and sure enough…

    we caught it early. It’s hard to think about what could have happened if I had even waited a few weeks.

    thanks again for sharing your journey.

    Glad you are doing well.

  7. What an inspiration! Hopes and prayers for a fruitful, cancer-free future.

    I, too, was a young adult when diagnosed with cancer at age 28. I was also misdiagnosed a year before getting my official diagnosis.

    On Labor Day of 1999 I entered the emergency room due to constant pain in my testicle. I admit now that I’d ignored the warning signs for close to 2-3 years, attributing the swelling and pain to mountain bike riding and the general sick feeling I always had, plus throwing up, to stress. Well I came out two hours later with a solid diagnosis, which was confirmed the following week of Stage 4 Testicular cancer. I was lucky enough to end up with several types: germ cell, embryonic, mixed cells, large cells, etc. It didn’t look good: mets to my abdomen, chest, breast, and neck.

    Underwent three rounds of BEP chemo and endured a lot of false starts on the road to recovery but ten years later I am still here.

    So take that, cancer.

  8. Lacey Strickland says:

    Great story and I love the t-shirt. I too am a Hodgkins lymphoma survivor. I have been in remission 15 great years! Thanks for sharing your story. Keep living strong!

  9. Casey Reed says:

    Tom- You are an amazing man that continue to show those affected by cancer can make a difference. I, too, am a 2 time 3rd stage testicular cancer survivor. I just finished my stemcell transplant and am well on my way to rebuilding my immune system. I am happily married and have 3 amazing kids (7,4,3). I fight and fight to beat cancer not just for me but for them. They fight alongside me as well. Keep the faith brother. We are the crusaders that will paved the way for anyone affected by cancer to fight and never ever give in to this awful disease. “LiveStrong Tom”.. Casey

  10. Barbara says:

    What a story of encouragement! Thanks so much for sharing. I just had my 1-year anniversary of being diagnosed with Stage 4 Non-hodgkins lymphoma.Following spinal surgery to remove a tumor, I had 5 months of chemo. My latest tests have come back clear of any new growth!

  11. robert says:

    congrats..I too was diagnosed in may of 2005..30 yrs old stage 2 lymphoma, owned my own resturant, 2 kids under the age of 18 months.. my son was 8 weeks old when I was told I would have to go through chemo!!! scary!! but we kicked cancers arse! and now I am working on kicking marathons arse. I have 2 this year and my goal time is 2 hrs 45 min!! take that cancer!! my first marathon is on the 5 yr anniversary of my last chemo!!
    don’t ever give up,or give in!! great to see other stories out there! livestrong! a survivors story.

  12. Heidi Adams says:

    You’re a Planet Cancer rockstar, Tom, and a champion well-suited to carry the flag for young adults with cancer everywhere. Thanks for all that you do!

  13. Halley Sinclair says:

    Tom – You are incredible, thanks for sharing your story! Cheers to cancer being your bitch!

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