Five years ago, Jessica Deutsch, a healthy swim instructor, celebrated her 21st birthday with friends in Las Vegas. The happy celebration ended when she returned home and woke up not feeling well. “I was having trouble swallowing, and it quickly progressed to a cough,” she explained.
Deutsch was diagnosed with bronchitis, but gradually she began to have trouble breathing, and swallowing was becoming more difficult. She went to a different doctor who ordered a chest x-ray and found a mass in her chest. A biopsy of the mass revealed that it was lymphoma, a blood cancer that develops in the lymphatic system.
After her diagnosis, Deutsch was referred to Dr. Timothy Toonen at Minnesota Oncology’s Saint Paul Cancer Center. She underwent six rounds of chemotherapy there followed by 25 radiation treatments at our Maplewood Cancer Center. Treatment was followed by speech therapy to regain closure of her voice box.
Deutsch said that her treatment went well with very minimal side effects. The experience, although traumatic, was also life-changing for her. She decided she wanted to pursue a medical career and ended up doing her externship at the Minnesota Oncology clinic where she had received her treatment. When she completed a Medical Assistant program, she was hired by Minnesota Oncology about a year and half ago.
“I can really understand and relate to our patients,” Deutsch said. “I know what it’s like to go through chemotherapy and to have to manage all of those medications.” She said her experience makes it easier for her to talk to patients about their treatment and explain things better.
Deutsch kept a positive attitude throughout her cancer diagnosis and treatment. Her participation in the Lymphoma Research Foundation Lymphoma Walk played a large role in that, she said. Deutsch formed a walking team with family and friends the year she was diagnosed. Five years later, her team, “The Knockouts,” is the one of the largest and top fundraising teams participating in the annual fundraising event. And on February 9, Deutsch was presented with the 2017 Inspiration Award by Lymphoma Research Foundation at the 10th Annual Love to Find a Cure Event.
The award was presented to Deutsch along with her teammates Melissa Furch, Jeanne Morris, and Jim Taglia, all of whom are lymphoma survivors. Since starting their team in 2011, The Knockouts have raised nearly $50,000 in support of LRF, and they have already signed up their team for the 2017 Minnesota Lymphoma Walk in June. For more information about the Walk, please visit: www.lymphoma.org/MNwalk.