Castleman disease: Finding the strength to fight through community
Published Apr 29, 2021 • By Courtney Johnson
Victoria, a patient living with idiopathic multicentric Castleman disease, shares how she has found the strength to fight back against the disease in a patient community.
Discover her story below!
Hello Victoria, you have Castleman disease, can you tell us a bit about it? What type do you have? When were you diagnosed?
I was diagnosed with idiopathic multicentric Castleman disease (iMCD) with TAFRO syndrome in January 2016.
How did you react to the diagnosis?
I struggled with so many emotions: shock, grief, fear, frustration, feeling alone… What scared me the most was the survival rate - for iMCD it’s only 5 years!
Who did you turn to for help?
The doctor who diagnosed me wasn’t really familiar with Castleman at all, so I went to my primary care doctor for help. Fortunately he was able to help me do some research and find a specialist who could help me.
Unfortunately before I could see the specialist I landed back in the hospital and had a difficult time.
In my searching on Google I found the Castleman Disease Collaborative Network (CDCN) and I signed up. I didn’t really take full advantage of the patient organization until I was hospitalized, but once in the hospital I realized the value and importance that patient communities can bring to those of us battling chronic illness. Dr. David Fajgenbaum, one of the cofounders and a researcher in Castleman disease, reached out to me and my family to share information and insights, but also understanding.
How does Castleman disease affect you in your daily life? Have you had to change your routine or habits?
CD has really hindered me and my quality of life. I’ve spent a lot of time in and out of the hospital and I’ve undergone a lot of treatments. I’ve had multiple blood transfusions, one platelet transfusion and 5 weeks of dialysis. I also had sepsis with 90lbs of fluid and muscle atrophy.
On top of the physical symptoms and ailments I’ve had, I also struggle with anxiety and depression at times.
How has being part of a patient organization helped you in your battle with Castleman disease?
I’m so thankful because it has not only helped me with my health and fighting through CD, but it has put me in contact with so many other patients and loved ones. They’ve become like family to me.
I also joined the CDCN’s Warrior team and it’s given me a sense of fighting back against the disease and that I’m doing my part to help find a cure. It’s also given me the ability to help other CD patients.
Do you have any advice you’d like to share with other members living with Castleman disease?
Be your best advocate. For many of us, you are the only CD patient your doctor has, and you are the doctor’s source of information on the disease. You know what’s going on with your body. Don’t let your doctor brush you aside. If you need to seek second opinions or go to a doctor that will listen to you then do that.
Always use the CDCN as a source of information, as it really is the best out there.
Finally, reach out to other CD patients - we are always willing to help or just listen if you need to vent!
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Testimonial adapted from the CDCN