Hastings, Neb., native battles lymphoma at 79

It started in March with just one swollen lymph node in Barb Zaroban’s neck.

The Hastings, Neb., native had been fighting a sinus infection and figured it was just that. So did her family doctor who gave her an antibiotic.

That seemed to work for a while, but two months later Zaroban’s neck began swelling again with so many lymph nodes it was getting difficult to breathe and swallow.

That’s when Zaroban’s doctor sent her to the University of Nebraska Medical Center where within one week she was diagnosed with diffuse large B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma and given her first round of chemotherapy.

“The swelling went down right away and it’s stayed down ever since that first chemo treatment,” said Zaroban, who’s had three treatments so far. “I’m almost 80 years and I thought it would be worse at my age, but it’s going better than I expected.”

Aside from the fatigue and loss of hair, Zaroban has had few side effects from the treatment. She’s glad her family doctor and those at UNMC acted quickly to help diagnose and treat her lymphoma.

Lymphoma is the most common blood cancer and the third most common cancer of childhood. At least one Nebraskan is diagnosed with lymphoma every day.  About 450 new cases of non-Hodgkin lymphoma are diagnosed in Nebraskans each year.

Because lymphoma is the most common of all blood cancers, it is increasingly essential to raise public awareness about the disease and how it affects the lives of all those suffering from it, said Julie Vose, M.D., chief of the UNMC Division of Hematology/Oncology and the Neumann M. and Mildred E. Harris Professor.

Sunday, Sept. 15 has been set aside as World Lymphoma Awareness Day.

“Lymphoma Awareness Day is a day for citizens to understand the symptoms that might indicate the diagnosis of lymphoma such as painless swelling of lymph nodes, or unexplained fevers, weight loss, or night sweats,” Dr. Vose said.

“It is also important to emphasize the increasing numbers of patients affected by lymphoma in the U.S. and the exciting new therapy options for patients based on clinical trials performed at centers such as UNMC,” she said.

The initial diagnosis can be difficult as people can easily mistake its symptoms for something else. Symptoms include persistent chills, painless swelling of the lymph nodes, fever, night sweats, unexplained weight loss, lack of energy, itching or fever.

But if caught early, some types of lymphoma are very treatable, like the kind Zaroban has, Dr. Vose said.

“It’s amazing how quickly this all came together. I’m very happy with all the care I’ve received,” Zaroban said.

For information on lymphoma, contact the Lymphoma Research Foundation 1(800) 500-9976 or see www.lymphoma.org. For information about lymphoma clinical trials at UNMC, contact Susan Blumel at 402-559-9183 or e-mail sblumel@unmc.edu. For more information about the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center go to: http://www.fredandpamelabuffettcancercenter.com/

Through world-class research and patient care, UNMC generates breakthroughs that make life better for people throughout Nebraska and beyond. Its education programs train more health professionals than any other institution in the state. Learn more at unmc.edu.


Lisa Spellman
UNMC Public Relations
(402) 559-4353