Stories of Hope

Fallon, Hodgkin Lymphoma Caregiver

Fallon, Hodgkin Lymphoma Caregiver

In November of 2021, a swollen lymph node appeared on my fiancé Jian’s neck. Thinking it could be an infection of some sort he went to urgent care, received some antibiotics, and went on his way.

As time progressed the lymph node remained swollen and odd symptoms started to pop up. It started with some fatigue, but he worked 10-hour days, so we assumed that must be the reason. He said that he just needed to adjust to the work schedule. He also started to occasionally have night sweats, but it was in the middle of summer in Arizona, so again, we assumed that must be the reason. He told me it was probably the sheets I bought, joking that I just needed to get a higher thread count next time: “These aren’t fancy sheets, no wonder I’m sweating at night!”.

He also started experiencing a low-grade fever. Okay, kind of weird…but maybe he was picking up a bug or suffering from allergies. Then he started sweating in the middle of the day and saying he was freezing cold. We don’t have any more jokes or silly excuses, because reality is starting to set in and we finally ask each other: what’s going on?

His symptoms kept ramping up and we both began to experience that sinking feeling that something was really wrong. Jian was a hardworking man who fought through every symptom and warning sign because he didn’t know what his body saying. Those seemingly subtle symptoms couldn’t be that serious, right? How could it?

On April 1, 2022, after MANY tests we found out he likely had Hodgkin lymphoma. We hoped this was an April Fools Day joke that had gone too far. Unfortunately, no one was there to say “Just kidding! This is a bad dream and you’re going to wake up soon!”. It was reality.

As we went through the lengthy staging process, I felt like I became an online doctor. I was checking his vitals with my Walgreens thermometer, blood pressure machine, and pulse oximeter. My soulmate, the love of my life, my life partner was sick. While I was spiraling, he was trying hard to keep us above water as it felt like we were slowly sinking into the world of doctors, medicines, and procedures.

In June of 2022, we found out what Jian is working with: stage 4 mixed cellularity Hodgkin lymphoma. STAGE 4? How could this be happening? The cancer had taken over his throat, surrounded his heart, and pressed against his spleen so much that it had become painfully enlarged. The cancer had also made its way from his scalp to his femur.

It was everywhere, and in the midst of the chaos that was about to become our whole lives, Jian was still comforting me. He’d just been given unimaginable news and he looked at me with concern, needing to know if I was okay and worrying how his family was going to cope.  While his world was falling apart, all he cared about was his loved ones – that’s his heart, always thinking of others first.

Jian was so worried about taking care of everyone else, as he always does, but this time it was our turn to take care of him. With a diagnosis like this, he had to hit the ground running – we were going to beat this, his oncologist said, and we committed to that. 6 cycles of ABVD chemotherapy were scheduled, his port was placed a few days later, and then we were off!

Every two weeks Jian showed up, received his chemo, attended his appointments, took his medicine, and never complained. Even when he had every right to break down, cry, or get mad at how unfair this was, he never did. He would come home after every treatment, we’d eat lunch together, he’d take a long nap, and then we’d spend the evening chatting with family about how it went.

Jian did 12 total rounds of chemotherapy treatments and on Dec 1st, 2022, he RANG THE BELL! This was a moment we’d been talking about since right after his first treatment. During his first treatment, he developed tumor lysis syndrome. As we were about to leave the hospital, he became very pale and started to violently shake. The nurses jumped into action and followed up days after to ensure that he was doing better. After that first treatment, I realized how much of a fight this would be and I was ready.  

He asked me to make him one promise throughout all of this: that I was never to treat him like a patient. He wanted to chase the sunshine when he could, take a long walk outside with our dog, and feel normal. He didn’t let cancer define him or take any more of his day than it needed to. I made good on that promise – we went exploring every chance we could get, with a lot of time spent soaking up the sun at the beach, driving down the coast singing along to our favorite songs and trying to find the best taco spot in California (we’re still on the hunt for that one!).

Jian’s the strongest person that I’ve ever known, and I knew if anyone could do this, it was him. And guess what? He did it! He BEAT Cancer! On January 9th, the PET scan results showed NO signs of active cancer and that he was officially in remission! On January 30th, the port came out and by February 2nd, Jian was eager to return to work.

Jian’s strength, bravery, and courage to keep pushing through the hardest battle amazes me more than I could ever put into words. While undergoing endless treatments and medications, Jian did house projects. We now have a remodeled bathroom, new kitchen cabinets, a blossoming backyard, and so much more. Our family and friends held us up and walked alongside us through this unimaginable journey and I don’t have the words to thank them enough for holding us together. Jian Keil, my love, I’m so amazed by you and I’m looking forward to seeing this next chapter in life together! My only hope is for the world to know your heart & strength. You amaze all of us and we love you so much!