In 2010, Erica Lindlau saw her primary care doctor after experiencing darkened urine. She thought it might be a urinary tract infection, but bloodwork showed a problem with her liver. An MRI on her 65th birthday revealed a mass in her pancreas.
Wilmot’s Gastrointestinal Oncology team, which specializes in pancreatic and other GI cancers, noticed that the mass was unusual. After additional biopsies and other tests, her team determined that she had non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
While the place where a mass is found often indicates the type of cancer a patient has, lymphoma, a cancer of the immune system, can occur anywhere in the body. Although getting her diagnosis took longer, Erica says she’s grateful for their commitment to finding the answer.
“If they did not have that determination, I would not be here,” Erica says.
She began seeing Paul Barr, M.D., who specializes in treating and researching lymphoma. Erica’s disease started out as follicular lymphoma but transformed to large cell lymphoma, a more aggressive type. She was going to need more aggressive treatment.
She underwent chemotherapy, and her team recommended an autologous stem cell transplant to keep her in remission. In this type of transplant, Erica’s stem cells would be collected and stored while she received high-dose chemotherapy. It would then be returned to her body, where it would rebuild her immune system.
At first, Erica resisted the transplant after reading a pamphlet about the procedure. It sounded too scary to her. However, with encouragement from her family and the desire to be strong for her 3-year-old granddaughter, Erica decided to do it. She also says research to improve cancer treatments played a role in her healing.
“If you don’t have research, I don’t think you’re going to have exceptional care and you’re never going to be up to date on what is going on,” says Erica, who worked at GE Research and Development before retirement. “The research is just so, so important.”