The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society marks today, the first Sunday in June, as National Cancer Survivors Day. Held annually in order to celebrate cancer survivors, the annual celebration of life is held in hundreds of communities worldwide. National Cancer Survivors Day is an annual, worldwide celebration of life that is held in hundreds of communities throughout the United States, Canada, and other participating countries.
Cancer Survivors Day honors those such as Oakville resident David Horn. When Horn was just 21 years old and then a student at the Missouri University of Science and Technology (then Rolla University) he began having back pain and sinus issues. It was 1990 and as a 21 year old, Horn thought nothing would ever bother him. He was a normal guy, playing on a softball team in Springfield during the summer, when his back started feeling worse and he began having night sweats.
“Even then, I didn’t think much of it. As the summer progressed, my parents moved to St. Louis, which was key because they didn’t have much (in terms of) hospitals in Springfield at the time,” Horn said.
Horn’s pain progressed. Doctors initially thought he had allergies, but as time went on, his back spasms were unbearable. By mid-September, Horn had to drop out of college. After a slew of testing began, Horn started having really horrible chest pains.
“I thought I was having a heart attack, my chest hurt so bad,” Horn said. “I was still like ‘Come on, I want to go back to school and move on with life.’”
An oncologist at Saint Louis University then stepped in and according to Horn, the CAT scan “lit up like a Christmas tree.” Horn was moved up to the cancer floor, and two days later, on his 22nd birthday, he was told he had stage 4 advanced Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma.
“I was so bad off—it was really bad. When you are told you have cancer you immediately start surviving,” Horn said. “I cried like a little kid.”
After 12 weeks of chemotherapy, Horn started to heal. By February of the next year, he went back to school. However, about mid-April he started feeling bad again.
“I started getting headaches and was really tired,” he said. “I was driving back (to St. Louis) from Springfield and had really sharp blackouts. I was like ‘Thank goodness I made it home.’”
After an MRI, horn was put back in intensive care. He had relapsed—and now he had an inoperable brain tumor.
“The first time I cried; the second time it was more like being mad,” he said. “It was probably not a relapse theoretically since I probably hadn’t beaten all of the cancer the first time. They didn’t know for sure, so they treated it as a relapse.”
After several rounds of high dose radiation, the tumor miraculously shrunk. Horn discovered after 48 long weeks that he had overcome both Lymphoma and a brain tumor. Even though he was told he was 99.9 percent free of cancer, the SLU doctors wanted to do a bone marrow transplant to prevent the cancer from returning. He was one of the first people ever to receive a bone marrow transplant at SLU Hospital.
Now at 42 years old, Horn is spending his 20th year in remission. He now spends his free time volunteering for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s First Connection program, which is a program in which patients and caregivers learn coping skills and gain hope from trained volunteer survivors. He has completed a half marathon with TNT, and he also attends seminars at SLU hospital as a guest speaker about bone marrow transplants.
“I’m doing great. It’s about staying positive and you have to stay positive the whole time. I thought about my friends and getting back into school,” he said.
He in fact did return to school and eventually got his MBA from SLU.
“I still live day by day and that’s a cool way to live,” he said.
For more information about TNT, visit www.lls.org.