cancer isn't just an option
For Tina Zubeck, surviving lymphoma isn't just an option.
It's a necessity.
A diagnosis by doctors at a leading lymphoma hospital
in June of 2001 showed that Tina's small cell lymphoma
was progressing into large cell lymphoma.
Tina's story actually began seveal years ago. After an
original diagnosis of small cell lymphoma in 1997, Tina's
nearly three-year waiting period came to an end in November
of 1999 when tests revealed that the lymphoma was progressing.
She needed to start thinking about treatments.
"Chemo wasn't an option because we knew it would
come back and the illness builds resistance to the drugs,"
said Zubeck, who is a secretary for the Platte County
R-3 School District. "We knew in a few months we'd
be back looking for another solution."
Zubeck, along with her family, decided to try a clinical
trial provided by the University of Omaha, who merits
itself on being one of the leading lymphoma hospitals
and having some of the world's best doctors.
The trial, which involved a vaccine made from one of
Tina's own tumors, targeted her cell type of lymphoma
so her body could fight the disease.
Zubeck began the vaccine in January of 2001 with one shot
per month for the next five months.
At the end of June, tests showed that Tina was experiencing
"I don't want to make it sound like the shots didn't
work, because prior to the vaccine I went through chemotherapy
which caused my cells to change and mutate. Those changes
turned into large cell lymphoma," said Zubeck.
"The vaccine I was taking was for small cell lymphoma
so it was not going to work because we were targeting
small cell instead of large cell lymphoma."
Large cell lymphoma is a rapidly and more aggressive
type of lymphoma then the small cell.
"We felt shock, dismay, anger, helplessness and
we were on the pity potty for awhile but then we had to
figure out what to do and how we were going to correct
it," said Zubeck.
Zubeck stated that a doctor's treatment suggestion, as
well as the hospital's reputation as a respected lymphoma
hospital helped her make a decision on where she would
Tina's doctor recommended a procedure called peripheral
stem cell. The procedure began with three rounds of chemo
at home, and then had her return to Omaha for the next
The procedure involved taking Tina's own stem cells (which
are the purest forms of bone marrow) and freezing them.
At the end of November, Zubeck underwent high doses of
chemotherapy, which literally wiped out her entire immune
system. She was placed in the Lied Transplant Center in
Omaha, where her husband, Bob became her own personal
care provider, monitoring her vitals, drawing blood, taking
her temperature and making sure Tina received all the
appropriate drugs prescribed to her.
"He was my little nurse and he took real good care
of me," said Zubeck.
Following the chemotherapy treatments, doctors transplanted
the frozen stem cells back into her body.
"The hope of the procedure is that the stem cells
graph and create a new immune system. Which it did and
now my immune system is back and slowly getting better,"
explained Zubeck. "It wiped out 42-years of antibodies."
Due to the procedure, Zubeck will need to return in about
a year to receive all her childhood immunizations because
they were also wiped out by the procedure.
"The doctors there told me I was the poster child
for stem cell implant because my body did so well,"
stated Zubeck. "I have the greatest amount of respect
and admiration for the hospital up there. They are very
caring and it's a great place for anyone facing a lymphoma
Tina stated that fighting cancer is a mental game but
also an emotional game.
"I go into it like I don't have it, even though I
know I do. I know that I have a lot more things to do,
places to visit and grandchildren to hug in the future
and I don't let it get me down," said Zubeck.
Zubeck also told how there were children in the hospital
ages 3-year-old and 16-year-old that were going through
the same mental game.
"It breaks your heart and people should count their
blessings it's not their kids," stated Zubeck. "I'd
take it a hundred times over so kids don't have to have
it, but it doesn't work that way."
Lymphoma has played a mental and emotional role on Tina,
but those feelings have also extended to her family.
"Cancer is a double-edged sword in a way. The good
thing is that our family has grown so close now and we
support each other. It makes you realize to enjoy those
fleeting moments that are funny or irritating," explained
Zubeck. "As a mom, the bad side is how your children
have to deal with it and how it makes them grow up in
a way they shouldn't have to."
Since her initial diagnosis in 1997, Tina likes to assist
others experiencing what she has, and lives every day
to its fullest. While she is unable to donate her blood
to aid others suffering from lymphoma, Tina feels it's
her place to encourage everyone around her to donate blood
"Over the course of my five weeks in the hospital,
I had numerous blood and platelet transfusions to keep
me alive. It's so important to give blood and platelets
because so many people need it. I alone needed so many
and you just don't realize how far reaching those donations
are. I thank God for the people who gave those numerous
donations of blood and platelets who saved my life,"