Radiation is next for DC football player with Hodgkin's

January 21, 2008

By Roz Kohls
Staff Writer

Trevor Peterson of Cokato is starting radiation Wednesday, Feb. 13 for his Hodgkin's lymphoma, but his prognosis is excellent.

Peterson, who is a Dassel Cokato High School senior and defensive tackle on the varsity football team, finished his chemotherapy Dec. 14 for the cancer in the lymph nodes in his neck. Peterson described the eight sessions of chemo this fall as the worst experience of his life.

His parents also are relieved the time of being on “pins and needles” seems to be over, said his father, Wayne Peterson. Peterson had a positron emission tomography

He also feels a lot better, he added.

The 23 sessions of radiation he will get at Waconia Ridgeview Hospital are just a precaution.

“It’s way easier than chemo,” Peterson said.

During radiation he will wear a custom-made mask to hold his head in position. Peterson also was given a little red tattoo dot on his neck so technicians will know exactly where to point the radiation.

The dot marks the spot where the lump in his neck was that started the ordeal in July.

A lump is found

Dassel Chiropractor Shane Colberg was the first to discover the lump in Peterson’s neck during a chiropractic session in July. Peterson thought it hurt a little on the right side of his neck, and the lump seemed to interfere with his athletic performance. Colberg advised him to see a doctor about it.

In two weeks, a Cokato doctor examined the lump, and told Peterson it might be a muscle spasm. The lump might go away by itself, he was told.

It didn’t, though. The lump got bigger and hurt more, Peterson said. In mid-August, Peterson went to a doctor in Howard Lake who referred him to an eyes, ears, nose and throat doctor at Waconia. There, Peterson was given a CT scan.

During this time, Peterson’s parents were as mystified about the lump as he was. His mother said she thought maybe it was an infection.

Peterson had even joked around with his friends that it was cancer.They didn’t realize just how prescient that was.

After the CT scan, the Petersons were told he had to have an open biopsy the very next day. As soon as they heard the words, “open biopsy,” Peterson’s parents knew the doctors suspected cancer and they were worried.

The surgeons removed a piece of the tumor from Peterson’s neck on a Thursday, tested the piece, and reported on Monday what Petersons’ parents had been dreading, the “c”-word.

The Hodgkin lymphoma formed a 4.5 inches long enlarged lymph node that stretched from Peterson’s jaw line to just past his collarbone.

Doctors acted fast. On Sept. 4 they did a bone marrow biopsy and PET scan to see if the cancer had spread to other lymph nodes and different parts of his body. It hadn’t. The doctors were concerned about Peterson’s lungs, but they were clear, too.

Chemo began Sept. 7

Peterson was put under the care of an oncologist and started chemo on Sept. 7. Every other Friday he went to Waconia and had a two-to three-hour IV of four drugs and a steroid. The IV was essentially poison targeting the cancer cells.

Peterson’s oncologist told him if it worked, there’d be a difference in two weeks and he’d be the first to know.

Peterson felt OK the day following the chemo, but on Sundays, “I started to crash,” he said.

Not only did Peterson feel sick, nauseated, fatigued, irritable, and weak, but also his chest hurt from two minutes to an hour. Peterson described the pain in his chest as a “mini heart attack.” The intense pain extended from his left arm, where the IV was inserted, through his arm and into his chest, he said.

The chemo also changed his sense of taste and caused a lack of appetite. “There were times I didn’t eat for five days,” he said.

Strangely, the more sessions of chemo he had, the worse the crash was that came on Sunday.

The doctors were right, though. The lump in his neck shrunk significantly, he said.

In the meantime, Peterson’s parents were researching Hodgkin lymphoma. It has a better recovery rate than most types of cancer. “That’s the one to have, if you have to have cancer,” Peterson’s mother said.

Before chemo, Peterson had thick, wavy hair that reached below his ears. The more chemo he had, the more hair he lost. Peterson recalled sitting in the classroom at school during the fall, and idly pulling handfuls of hair out of his scalp.

Finally, Peterson decided if he was going to lose his hair anyway, he might as well have some fun with it. He shaved the sides of his head so he had a Mohawk hairstyle, he said.

Peterson never lost all of his hair, although he did lose some of his eyebrows.

Through it all, his team members, coaches, classmates and teachers were great, even though he missed a lot of school.

“The school’s been really good, helping him with homework, and keeping him on track for graduation,” his mother said.

The football team was supportive, too. Even though Peterson couldn’t play in his weakened condition, he still was allowed to suit up and be on the sidelines during games. The coaches treated him as if he was still a member of the team, he said.

The other kids treated him normally and asked him lots of questions, Peterson said.

“They realized he was still Trevor,” his mother said.

Peterson is glad the chemo is over now, and that it got rid of the cancer. He is expecting that the worst of the radiation treatments will be a dry throat, fatigue and some minor skin burning on his neck, he said.

Peterson is looking forward to resuming his studies in psychology and social work, a field he has been interested in since the eighth grade, he said.

Also, Peterson didn’t get much of a chance in the fall of 2007 to investigate colleges, because of the cycle of chemotherapy, so he will put school on hold this fall to regain his strength, his mother said.