"I'll tell you about my lymphoma healed at the fifth attempt"

Published on Sunday, 12 May 2013


This is the story of Marco, 38 years old Milanese engineer, married with two children. He tells us about his ordeal began in 2005 at San Carlo Hospital in Milan...


"My name is Marco C, I'm 38 years old. I'm an engineer, I am married and I have two children. 'll tell you how I dealt with my disease, a Hodgkin's lymphoma (stage II A sub-diaphragmatic).The diagnosis dates back to February 2005, I was 32 years old, in the Hospital San Carlo Hospital in Milan.

The following month I begin chemotherapy according to the ABVD ("Adriamycin, a.k.a. Doxorubicin - Bleomycin - Vinblastine - Dacarbazine", editor's note) scheme (the one proposed for lymphomas). In July, after the first 4 cycles, the result is disappointing, the adenopathy decreased in volume by 50%, but are still there. I have been propose 2 additional cycles of chemotherapy, so I go on till September 2005.

In late September my physical condition are bad. My situation is unchanged from July, the PET (Positron Emission Tomography) shows that the disease persists. The doctors offer a chemo "rescue" according to the scheme IGEV ("Ifosfamide - side effects -, Gemcitabine - side effects -, Vinorelbine - side effects -, Prednisone - side effects -", editor's note) and, if possible, autologous bone marrow. They discard the radiotherapy because of my young age and localization.

I begin to lose confidence in the solution that the hospital had presented as the best available, applied in the whole world ("Your adenopathy will melt away like snow in the sun", I was told).

I find out that to fight against the non-Hodgkin type B appears to e effective a monoclonal antibody, Rituximab (Rituxan - side effects - and MabThera - about it -, editor's note). I turn to the IEO Institute of Milan (even if mine is a Hodgkin's lymphoma). I was told that even in my case it can be applied the antibody and that it is better to postpone the transplant.

I jump for joy, at the beginning of October 2005 it was admited to the IEO, and for four weeks I go in on Friday and out on Sunday. I was administered the antibody in 4 infusions with medication and cortisone. I touch the sky with a finger because I felt immediately the effectiveness of the drug, my lymph nodes appear softer and smaller to the touch: in December 2005 the PET revealed the disappearance of the disease.

Unfortunately, it is only a truce in October 2006 the adenopathy resurface. I take my time, I want to calmly assess, but I do not have the calm, I also know that I would not be able to withstand another: hospitalizations, chemotherapy, transplant... MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) is merciless: my lymphoma has returned more malignant than before, now it has an impressive aggressiveness. I go back to the IEO hoping to be able to test some other monoclonal antibodies but hopes - yes these - melt immediately like snow in the sun: for me there is nothing else to do but the transplant.

I rush into turmoil. I go to different doctors, some do not recommend the transplant because it "would not lead to results", there are those who tell me that I should do another chemo instead of the ABVD... I begin to believe that everyone goes groping and I am tired to do more attempts. I decide to go to Genoa to a private doctor who, starting from the Di Bella therapy, has developed his own protocol.

Why didn't I go for the 'pure' Di Bella therapy? For me, that was dead and unsuccessful, and everyone said the same thing, and I remembered the news at the end of the nineties (then I did not even notice this story, I saw the cancer light years away from me ...). The specialist from Genoa explained me the rationality of the Di Bella therapy which he checked and corrected. I admit that during my pilgrimage from doctor to doctor, I remained displaced when I pretended explanations and I I was given the answer: 'medicine is not an exact science because it has to deal with the biological variable'.

However, not even this proved to be my 'therapy'.

The PET until January 2008 show a slow but steady deterioration.

And I wanted to heal and not just get along...

I continue to red up, I study the Di Bella publications on lymphoproliferative diseases, in the meantime I try another official way. I present to the Institute of Cancer in Milan: a 15-minute visit and € 240 fee, the doctor makes me sign the folder for auto transplant. I asked what is the healing percentage? Answer: 70%. I ask, but 70% based on the Hodgkin's lymphomas in general or on my specific case of lymphocyte-predominant subtype? Answer: 'The statistics are made on a general level, your lymphoma may have changed into something different, mixed'.

I was already doubting to enter within this 70% of healing and wonder: 'Wouldn't it be sensible to do before a biopsy of a lymph node to understand what it is and then decide the therapy? Answer: 'Maybe we'll do it but now listen to me, to die at my age it's not nice, but at your age I would say that is not the case... '. He told me then that there is a free bed for next week.

I sign the consent to hospitalization but I think that i might not go.

It's Sunday, February 8, 2009 when I send an e-mail to the email address found on the internet. Giuseppe Di Bella replies, on February 24th I am in his study.

After a long visit I go out with my head a bit dazed and a long list of drugs, some galenic, other pharmaceuticals, to be taken in doses and times well established. I am full of doubts and fears. In my head the worm is making its way "maybe I'm wrong, maybe I should go back to the hospital... in this situation I am alone!".

The first time I thread the needle of somatostatin in my belly I locked myself in the bathroom, alone, while my children and my wife are in bed. For the anxiety, after I sting my abdomen, I feel like fainting, so I have to lie down for a few minutes. Then I get hold of myself and I go to bed but I stay up all night. The anguish rises from the stomach, I think of my children, my wife, and my parents... I cry as I reflect: who would forgive me if everything will end in the worst way, I wouldn't forgive myself...

The days pass, after a month I already feel better. After three months I do the first PET. When the radiologist hears about the treatment that I follow, he tells me that I'm mad: 'I do not understand, but according to my oncologists colleagues, with whom I go to lunch often, Di Bella is the Vanna Marchi of the medicine'.

With this comment in my head I introduce myself in the PET. At the end of examination, the radiologist says verbatim: 'I don't know what to tell you, if this was your first first examination I'd say not to worry, you have nothing (in fact I still had some swollen lymph node, but three months before I had much more, larger and 'receiving', that is hazardous)!. The radiologist continues: 'Maybe yours was not a lymphoma, or maybe all the therapies that you made, gave results now... '. I think: who cares if they don't recognize that I'm okay for the Di Bella Method, I'm in heaven.

I am cautious (once I already felt good for nine months) but I'm beginning to feel strong and confident. I continue the Di Bella Method, in December 2009 examinations confirm a 'further regression of the disease.

Inside myself I think: 'So, there is a remedy to my cancer... '.

Today, is December 2011, I am still following the Di Bella Method, but the dosages of the drugs are getting lighter, I do an MRI every six months that every time ensures a progress.

Cancer is an ugly beast that I may have found a way to tame, since two years I no longer suffer, I returned carefree, I work, I enjoy my family and leisure. I wanted to tell you all this."



Trancripted by: Alina Mina Leonard

Read here the original article (Italian language) by journalist Gioia Locati.