- Cancer Survivor: Becky Zimmerman
“My oncologist at Fort Wayne Medical Oncology and Hematology was always very positive and supportive. He made me feel comfortable and gave me some say-so in what was going on.”
“Well, Beck, at least you don’t have leukemia,” her local doctor said after he did blood work and diagnosed a respiratory infection. Thinking back to that fall of 2004, 10-year cancer survivor Becky Zimmerman says, “I’ll never forget those words.”
Her hemoglobin count dropped so low she was barely able to walk, so her doctor referred her to a local internist who did a bone marrow aspiration. The results were sent to Fort Wayne Medical Oncology and Hematology, and Becky was given an appointment with a FWMOH doctor who remains her oncologist today. His diagnosis was acute lymphocytic leukemia, also known as acute lymphoblastic leukemia—a cancer that develops from lymphocytes in the blood marrow. Progressing quickly, it is usually fatal in a few months if not treated.
“When I was told a couple of weeks prior that I didn’t have leukemia, then told yes, I did, I was stunned to say the least. And since I was 65 years old, my chances of survival were not good. I decided I had a big battle ahead of me, and I was determined to fight it.” As the caregiver for her special-needs sister, Becky says she was especially motivated to “do all I could to beat the leukemia and win.” In January 2005, she began the chemotherapy modules prescribed for her treatment, and also had eight more bone marrow aspirations. Her will to battle the leukemia, combined with the excellent treatment she received at FWMOH, proved successful. “They were pretty confident after my first year that I’d survive,” Becky says. And survive she has, with the leukemia in remission and no sign of the disease.
Becky has many good things to say about her doctor and FWMOH: “My oncologist at Fort Wayne Medical Oncology and Hematology was always very positive and supportive. He made me feel comfortable and gave me some say-so in what was going on.” Referring specifically to her longtime regimen of taking nutritional supplements, Becky says, “My ability to continue taking nutritional supplements was very important to me. I never got any argument from the doctor—none. His willingness to work with me on that and to help me get well was critical.” Of FWMOH and all the staff, Becky says, “It was a positive environment with supportive people.”
Family supported her, too, she notes, especially during the chemotherapy. “I live thirty miles north in Kendallville, Indiana, and had to go to Fort Wayne for treatments every couple of weeks.” One brother drove her to Fort Wayne for appointments, a brother from Detroit looked after her special-needs sister for a while, and an aunt and cousin from Ohio went with her for some of the chemo treatments.
Life as a survivor is good, Becky says, adding that she overcame not only the leukemia but also a more recent problem—a poisonous spider bite—which caused her white blood cell count to dip dangerously low. For now, she’s once again visiting FWMOH every six months, but she anticipates returning to once-a-year visits in the future. “It’s just life,” she says. “You do what you have to do. I’m very grateful to be here. I was fortunate to be able to get through all this and have the good support I had.”