My Knight Cancer Story: Stephanie Anderson

Stephanie was just 23 when she was diagnosed with nodular sclerosis Hodgkin’s lymphoma. She shares her story to encourage others to pay attention to changes in their bodies that don’t go away. Stephanie, her husband, and their daughter are living life to the fullest in Gresham, OR. 

Stephanie and FamilyLearning I had cancer was a surreal, out-of-body experience. I went from thinking I had a food allergy to learning I had a tumor. And not a small one. I will always remember coming up the stairs to see my husband, wondering what to say to him. How to tell him it was much, much worse than we thought.

When you’re 23, you don’t think of cancer as a possibility. I had developed a strange cough, but explained it away as allergies. Eight months later, I was still telling myself it was nothing—ignoring how tired I felt and the weight I was losing. My husband had recently lost his job and we had no health insurance, which made me reluctant to see a doctor.

When I ultimately got a chest X-ray, the mass was obvious. It looked like something huge was clogging my lungs. After a CAT scan, my doctor referred me to the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute clinic in Gresham, just minutes from my house.

At my first appointment, where my doctor ordered a biopsy, he put his hand on my shoulder and asked me how I was doing. I told him I felt like I was on a roller coaster. He said, “You know the good thing about roller coasters? They end.” He said my cancer had a good chance of being cured.

My doctor and the nurse practitioner, Lisa Radcliff, were so encouraging and explained everything to me: over the next six months, I was going to have 12 treatments of chemotherapy, and then three weeks of radiation.

Within a week of my first chemotherapy treatment, my cough was gone. After four treatments I had a PET scan that showed the tumor was shrinking. Lisa Radcliff told me to hang in there: “We want to make sure we get rid of this the first time,” she said, and after three weeks of radiation, another PET scan showed no new activity and an even smaller tumor.

The incredible support of my family and the social workers at the Knight Cancer Institute helped me stay strong and positive. Andrea Lehman connected me with the local chapter of the Leukemia & Lymphoma society , where I was able to apply for and receive a stipend for extra expenses during my treatment. I also applied for financial aid through OHSU. The process was easy, and the help we got meant so much. I can’t imagine how my family and I would have handled the finances on our own.

My family and I are so grateful to the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute for the wonderful care and support they gave us. From the kind, talented staff in convenient locations to the financial support we received, we were given the best of everything.