Update: It has been almost 7 years since we last reported on this story.
Today, Myriam Oliver is still running strong and cancer-free. She has completed 6 marathons, over 20 half-marathons, and trains 25 miles per week. “Running has always been an outlet for me,” said Myriam. “I love the feeling of being free.”
This November, along with a team of runners representing the Elixir Fund, she will be running the New York Marathon, helping to bring even more awareness to cancer-related charities.
Lymphoma and the Runner
Myriam Oliver was an avid runner and simply didn’t have time to worry about that, “small lump on my neck.” It’s no wonder. This 41-year-old wife and mother cares for two, “happy, healthy sons,” an ill mother-in-law and an autistic 15-year-old son. She was also 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.” The 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 for Monday and she was released on the following Wednesday.
[What happened next not only put a halt on her training, but also changed life as the Oliver family knew it.]
About one 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. The husband explained to her, “Not every prescription is for every person.” And that it was important, “to have the least amount of toxins in your body.” He began talking 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, and Myriam is glad she did.
Dr. Nagourney, “took a lot more time and was more thorough,” than her first oncologist. “He wanted to learn about my lifestyle,” she said. “It was more personal and I didn’t feel like I was in an assembly line like I had at previous appointments.”
Myriam went on to have six rounds of the chemotherapy the test 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 of this year, she ran and finished the Surf City USA 2011 marathon. “I am the type of person that just doesn’t quit,” she said.