A South Okanagan woman, who communities have rallied around to help provide financial support during her stem cell and chemotherapy treatment, is leaps and bounds ahead of her doctors’ schedule.
Willowbrook resident Emma Alcott, 23, is home five weeks early following Hodgkin’s lymphoma treatment in Vancouver. She was diagnosed with stage four Hodgkin’s lymphoma in late 2018, and after six months of chemotherapy in Kelowna failed to shrink the mass in her chest, it was determined she’d need to stay for a period of three months in Vancouver to undergo a stem cell transplant and a high dose of chemotherapy.
“My blood counts came up a lot quicker than they expected them to (after the transplant and chemotherapy). So I was only there for five weeks, which is way better than the 10 weeks I was expecting,” said Alcott. “How it works is they collect your stem cells, then they give you a high dose of chemotherapy for five days, and then they give you your stem cells back right after. It completely wipes out your bone marrow and all of your cells, so it is definitely a lot harder on your system side effect-wise.”
Alcott’s fiancé, Devon Robinson, was able to visit her during this hospital stay but she said their two sons—Daxon, 7, and Kaeson, 3—had to stay behind with other parents. She said she is thankful she is able to spend the next month recovering at home with her family.
“It’s really nice to be back with the kids and the rest of my family. I got to come back the day before my brother’s wedding. I was a bridesmaid, actually, so I got to be in the ceremony,” said Alcott.
According to Alcott, the doctors in Vancouver said her youth was part of the reason she has rebounded so quickly from treatment.
“They said people who are younger tend to bounce back a lot faster. And then, just the way that my body responds to the growth factor, which they give you so that your body produces more cells,” said Alcott. “Even at my last chemo I had to have some of that and my body just responds really quickly to the shot they give. So they think that’s probably why too.”
Alcott said she can’t begin to thank everyone enough for the support they’ve shown her and her family, noting the various community fundraisers that were held in her benefit and the GoFundMe campaign friends and family started. Shortly after it was determined that she’d need this treatment in Vancouver, Willowbrook residents and the surrounding area rallied to support the young family and their healthcare costs. Alcott was a full-time university student at the time of her diagnosis but was unable to use her student coverage to ease some of the costs as she had to be attending classes for it to be covered. In addition, she did not qualify for E.I. and Robinson had recently been laid off from his job.
“I don’t even know how to thank everybody enough,” said Alcott. “I could never have imagined the support we saw.”
At this time, Alcott said her doctors are “hopeful that I’ll just have to do maintenance chemo for the rest of the year and not radiation,” but noted that this is pending a PET scan she has scheduled in July in Vancouver. She said right now she is focused on not overdoing it at home while she gets her energy back, and said she has to lay low while her immune system recovers from the treatment.
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