Real People, Real Stories

Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma survivor

Leonard Donaldson

My story began nearly 21 years ago. I thought that I had the perfect life. My career was up and coming and had a great job with a local engineering firm. I had a wonderful family and home in suburban Houston. Little did I know my life was about to change forever. One night I woke up with a high fever and sweating profusely. This began going on for a few weeks and my weight began to drop. I finally went to the doctor and we both agreed that it was probably something to do with my allergies since that always was a reoccurring problem for me. He checked my vitals and prescribed some medicine to take and it was our hope that was the end of it.

My symptoms got progressively worst, so I went back to the doctor and persisted he check me out. He agreed and scheduled me for a battery of test including blood work, heart scans, and x-rays. The next day the doctor called me back and I was told to report to the hospital immediately for more tests. He had notice a large mass in my chest area and wanted to see what it was. I checked in the hospital and received more tests, including a CT scan and needle biopsy. I finally met with my doctor and gave me the shock of my life. “Leonard you have cancer”. That was the last thing I expected to hear. A thousand thoughts began to run through my mind: My family, my home, my job and career, my finances.

My doctor began making arrangement for my treatments at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. I never imagined that the journey was going to be what it was. After 2 years of treatment including major surgery, numerous cycles of chemotherapy, a bone marrow transplant, and radiation treatment and countless days and nights in the hospital, my cancer was in remission. Right now I can say those were the two hardest years of my life.

The time after trying to return my life back to a normal routine was very difficult. For the first time I felt a sense of being lost. I had an inner consciousness that needed to do something with my time, my life. Years passed and but that feeling never seem to go away. One day I was approached by a church member who heard that I was a cancer survivor. She was trying to start a cancer support group at our church that would work with an outside support network called CanCare. She mentioned a training class would be coming soon and would I be interested in attending. I pushed it off and said I was busy, but let me know about the next one I might be interested. Well the class came again and was asked to go again.

I reluctantly agreed to go thinking it wouldn’t hurt to try. I went on an interview and was pleasantly surprise at all the work that was being done with people with cancer. Later I went to the training and within a few hours it felt like a huge burden was lifted off my shoulders. I listened to so many wonderful stories of people with cancer. I listened to their journeys and their struggles. During that weekend training we all talked, we all listened, we all laughed, and we cried together. For the first time in many years I felt I had found that missing part of my life.

I was so excited and could not wait for an opportunity to be partnered with someone. Finally I got that call from CanCare that they had a person they wanted me to call. What a wonderful experience that was for me on that day. My life has changed; I now live to help others in their battle with cancer. I share that light of hope that gives them the strength to keep going, to keep fighting, and to never ever give up. CanCare makes that light of hope happen

CanCare has been serving people with cancer since 1990.  All services are confidential and free of charge.  To talk to someone surviving your diagnosis, click here.