Dale Stutzman: Walking miracle after stage 4 lymphoma

My cancer journey with Stage 4 large cell Lymphoma began October 21, 2004 while visiting family in North Carolina. I didn’t feel well, and the following week when my wife, Ethel and I headed back home to Indiana, I decided I would go see my family doctor. He heard some wheezing in my chest, but not much else.

By February of 2005, my symptoms got worse, and I experienced uncontrollable shaking, and my hands turned purple. I returned to my doctor and began to undergo tests of all types: blood, cholesterol, prostate, chest x-rays and more. The shaking, chilling and fevers continued into April, but my blood tests and x-rays continued to show normal results. Finally, I was diagnosed with a prostate infection and given antibiotics.

I was referred to an infectious disease specialist, who agreed with the prostate infection diagnosis and prescribed another antibiotic. But by June, the doctors were not satisfied with the infection diagnosis, and a lump had now appeared on my neck. I went to see my surgeon, and told him I wanted the ‘lump’ removed. Although he reassured me it was nothing, he removed it, and sent it for a biopsy examination. Meanwhile, I returned home to my uncontrollable shaking and fevers.

Since my symptoms continued, I was sent to Cleveland Clinic. There I was told that I had lymphoma, and that it was treatable near home at the Goshen Center for Cancer Care. Dr. Poldman, the lymphoma specialist, was very encouraging, and told me, “You’ve got a good cancer center in Goshen, so you can go home.”

Within two days I was admitted to the hospital, and I met Dr. Pennington. He told me I had an enlarged spleen and was very ill. The lymphoma was very aggressive and affecting my bone marrow. Without treatment, I couldn’t expect to live more than a few weeks to a month or two. But with treatment, I had a chance of remission and being well again.  After nine months of waiting to find out what was wrong with me, I was relieved to finally hear a diagnosis. And so the real battle for my life began, and prayers from all over the country were offered in my behalf.

By June 29, 2005 I was near death’s door. Lying in a hospital bed, every area of my body was swollen and full of fluid, yet my mouth was so dry I could hardly talk. My family and friends gathered at the hospital to hold an anointing service for me and read the scriptures: Isaiah 43:1-4, Romans 8:31-38 and James 5: 13-14.

My chemotherapy began that evening after everyone had gone home, and I had a terrible reaction. I began shaking uncontrollably and my heart rate soared. I was placed on oxygen and a heart monitor, and Ethel was called back to the hospital with the expectation that I might not make it through the night. One of the nurses sat at my bedside, and by 4:30 a.m. I had stabilized.

I left the hospital July 4, 2005, very weak and still sick, but a truly grateful person. I’ll never forget Dr. Pennington’s words, “You were about out of here, Bud.” I think my family and I knew that I came very close to dying.

The ups and downs of chemotherapy continued through the summer, and on October 12, I had another appointment with Dr. Pennington. He told me to, “Stand up and take a bow, there is no sign of cancer.” Those were wonderful words for me and my family, words that we were not sure we would ever hear. God had indeed performed a miracle.

It has now been almost five years since I was pronounced ‘cancer free,’ and I see Dr. Pennington every year to make sure I stay that way. I tell everyone who will listen, that I am a walking miracle, because I know it is true.

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