“Overall, my life changed the most when I found out that I was a lot stronger than what I thought I was,” said Sue Ebeltoft.
Sue Ebeltoft was diagnosed with stage 3 Hodgkin's Disease, otherwise known as Lymph Node Cancer, in 1999 at the age of 24.
Before her diagnosis of Hodgkin’s, Sue had been diagnosed with eczema, an itchy inflammation to the skin, and was told to “live with it”. After a year has passed since her eczema diagnosis, she soon discovered a lump under her arm that led to the diagnosis of Hodgkin’s Disease. Doctors performed multiple tests regarding the lump which led to the diagnosis on March 3, 1999- the same year Sue was planning her wedding for the upcoming April. She journeyed through 6 months of chemotherapy once every other week, followed by 20 days of radiation.
By the end of 1999, she was told that her chances of the cancer coming back were slim due to the aggressive treatment she received.
“Seven months after my treatments were over, I found out that I was pregnant,” Ebeltoft said. “I gave birth to an amazing daughter, Elizabeth, on February 9, 2001.”
During a routine CT scan when Elizabeth was 6 months old, doctors found concerning spots on Sue that led to a negative biopsy. A couple years later during another routine CT scan, they found more spots on her liver and lungs. Doctors performed a needle biopsy which led to the devastating news that her cancer was back in 2003. Her treatment started with 3 months of high dose chemotherapy. During chemo, she was preparing for a stem cell transplant. After performing a bone marrow biopsy, the results came up negative, which meant that Sue could use her own stem cells for the transplant.
In January of 2003, Sue went to Indiana Blood and Bone Marrow Transplantation Clinic in Beech Grove for the harvesting of her stem cells. For a normal procedure, patient’s typically draw the highest amount of stem cells on the first day. For Sue, it was the fourth day that the let to the highest amount of stem cells collected. Sue believes she was lucky in so many ways as she was able to be an outpatient in Indianapolis with a family member who stayed by her side for constant support.
After the stem cell collection, Sue went home for about a week and then traveled back for chemotherapy. On many days she would receive chemo twice. She then had her stem cells reinfused and stayed at the hospital for only 14 days, when the typical time for stem cell reinfusion is 21 days.
She strongly pushed through the procedure’s hardships by keeping thoughts of her daughter and her upcoming birthday close.
“I told my body that I had plans for Elizabeth’s birthday, and I was not going to miss out on those plans,” Ebeltoft said. “I fought so hard my second round of cancer so that I could raise my daughter.”
After her stem cell reinfusion, Sue went home and slowly began to recover after being in remission for fifteen years.
Throughout the journey, her family remained her biggest supporters as well as extended family. Her husband was by her side during chemotherapy while her husband’s mom and sister supported her in Indianapolis.
“For somebody who is newly diagnosed with cancer, I would tell them to listen to their body and keep a positive attitude. I always have the fear of the cancer coming back, especially fearing my daughter getting sick,” Ebeltoft said. “That fear never leaves, but I have to learn to live with it and try not to stress about it. There will be days that are very rough, but they will not last.”