Myriam Oliver was an avid runner and the caretaker of three sons (one of which is autistic) and an ill mother-in-law. She simply didn’t have time to worry about a small lump in her neck. How could she? She was two months into training for her third marathon.
It was an unusual chain of events that brought Myriam to the emergency room one day in November 2009. She had been at a neighbor’s house when her friend’s dog gave her, “a tiny little bite on the wrist.” That tiny bite required her to be hospitalized for five days to receive intravenous antibiotics. While there, she asked the physician if he could finally look at the lump on her neck, which was now “about the size of a quarter.” He ordered a needle biopsy and shortly thereafter Myriam was discharged.
What happened next not only put a halt on her training, but also changed life as the Oliver family knew it.
About a week after her discharge, Myriam received a letter from her primary care physician. “My first thought was this couldn’t be right!” The letter was a referral to an oncologist for possible lymphoma, a cancerous tumor in the lymph nodes in her neck. (Lymphoma affects the immune system and her physician believes her reaction to the dog bite became so severe because her body could no longer fight off infection.)
One Sunday, Myriam shared her diagnosis with friends at church. She then spoke to a woman whose husband and sister-in-law were both patients of Robert Nagourney, MD. She learned, “Not every prescription is for every person.” And that it was important to have the least amount of toxins in your body. Her friend explained about chemosensitivity testing (EVA-PCD®) and how it determines which drug or combination of drugs would be most effective in treating her lymphoma. He convinced her to call Rational Therapeutics, where Dr. Nagourney is the medical director. Myriam is glad she did.
“It was more personal and I didn’t feel like I was in an assembly line like I had at previous appointments,” said Myriam.
She went on to have six rounds of the chemotherapy that assay results recommended. She has been chemo-free since June 2010. “When you have a life-threatening illness you want to be given the best chances,” said Myriam. “Having the EVA-PCD assay gave me peace-of-mind that I was taking the right chemo for me.”
Two weeks after her last treatment, Myriam started training again. In February, she ran and finished the Surf City USA 2011 marathon. “I am the type of person that just doesn’t quit,” she said.