VOX POPULI: Light at End of the Tunnel Is Getting Bigger and Brighter

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By LYNNE MORIHISA

My husband, Steve, discovered a small lump about the size of a pea on the inner aspect of his left thigh in October 2020. He made an appointment with the local dermatologist, who biopsied the lump and sent it off to the lab.

We got the result of the biopsy report about one week later: “Malignant lymphoma, Natural Killer (NK) T cell lymphoma.” Huh? What ? We googled “NK T-cell lymphoma” to learn about this unheard-of cancer.

Basically there are two types of this cancer: Extranodal NK T cell lymphoma, nasal type, which occurs in 80% of cases in the nasal cavity, and NK T cell lymphoma, which occurs in 20% of cases in non-nasal areas such as the skin and gastrointestinal tract. This is a rare type of cancer that is mainly found in the Asian population and affects males more than females; hence, the purpose of writing this article is to spread awareness of this type of cancer so that you can share this information with friends and family.

Steve has been under the excellent care and guidance of Dr. Jasmine Zain and her team since we first received the above diagnosis. She is an oncologist who specializes in this type of cancer at City of Hope in Duarte.

Steve underwent a PET (positron emission tomography) scan, which revealed that the cancer was exclusively in his skin, the largest organ in the body. Fortunately, his lymph nodes and other internal organs were void of cancerous growth. Dr. Zain discussed the plan of care and told him that his prognosis was good. He has undergone three rounds of chemotherapy treatments and a most recent PET scan showed that there is no longer any presence of the cancer.

The next step is preparing for a stem cell transplant (donor has been found) and while he will still require frequent follow-up visits after the surgery, he is on the road to recovery.

Our advice to you: Do an occasional self-examination by checking and/or running your hands up and down your arms, legs, torso, front and back. Use a mirror to check your back or have someone check your back, and if you notice a bump or lump on any part of your body that was not there before, make an appointment with a local dermatologist and ask for a biopsy, if the dermatologist elects not to perform one.

We hope it is benign, but if not, seek treatment at City of Hope, a renowned cancer center located in the city of Duarte. Not to discount the excellent cancer centers such as USC Norris Cancer Center or UCLA Cancer Center, but rare cases are referred to City of Hope, so the sooner you are evaluated and treated, the better your chances are for a successful outcome.

A big, heartfelt thank-you to all our dear friends and family for their prayers, words of encouragement, and support. This has been an arduous journey, but the light at the end of the tunnel is getting bigger and brighter.

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Steve Morihisa is a retired dentist after 40 years of working in Montebello and Lomita. Lynne Morihisa is a retired physical therapist after 35+ years of working in hospitals, clinical facilities, and home health care.

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