Tag Archive for: Waldenström

My Waldenström Macroglobulinemia, Miracle Number Three

Dear Fellow Cancer Patient,

As I believe in universal love for ALL, I’m reaching out to you, whether we have met or not, to invite you to join me in embracing the concept of medical miracles no matter what kind of cancer you have.

I do so because in January 2023 I experienced my third medical miracle since being diagnosed with Waldenström macroglobulinemia (WM) in August 2012, an extremely rare and currently incurable lymphoma.

The mission of Patient Empowerment Network (PEN) to support and educate patients with all cancers has an exceptional impact. It is an honor to cooperate with PEN, and my dream is to bring you hope through my own medical successes through the past 10 years. (*Please see footnote for a brief history of my story.)

It is my tremendous good fortune to be in the constant care of my world-renowned WM specialists/hematologists at the Bing Center for Waldenström’s Macroglobulinemia, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute/Harvard Medical School in Boston, Mass. since March 2013. Also, my oncologist at Virginia Cancer Specialists who has extremely high credentials in hematological malignancies, diagnosed me in 2012, and treated me immediately with what was then the flagship chemotherapy for WM.

In September 2022, I experienced the most aggressive outbreak ever of my Waldenström. A lymph node was so enlarged, I discovered it myself. One week later, my feet were unbelievably swollen, which I discovered when I couldn’t put my shoes on. I immediately reached out to the Bing Center’s Director, Dr. Steven Treon. Within the same hour, he called my Virginia oncologist and recommended a PET scan and biopsy for me. The next morning at 10 am, less than 24 hours later, I was examined in Virginia by my oncologist, and he ordered both tests on the spot.

The results were extremely concerning and put fear in my heart again as is the case with any cancer diagnosis. Enlarged lymph nodes were very widespread throughout my body, and there was increased activity in my entire bone marrow throughout my skeleton from head to toe.

My two Bing Center for WM doctors’ recommendation of Benda-R [bendamustine (Treanda) and rituximab (Rituxan)], for chemotherapy was agreed to by all upon consultation with my Virginia oncologist.

For three months, I couldn’t walk outside of my house and only went to medical appointments with my oncologist every week and chemotherapy treatments for two days each month. Tony, my husband, had to drive me there and take me by wheelchair down the hall to his office. I was also very frail due to losing 15 pounds, making my weight 90 pounds.

During this very challenging time, my brother Mike, a two-time survivor of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL), supported me constantly and even called me from Egypt and Panama on his cruises there, as he understands too well how trying it is to be back in treatment for cancer. My dear friends also offered wonderful daily encouragement with special contact to lift my spirits.

After three months of chemotherapy, my follow-up PET scan in January 2023, showed “complete interval resolution of the abnormal marrow and nodal activity evident on the previous study.” Although I’m not an expert, the comparison of the images of my body between September and January was remarkable. In the Bing Center for Waldenström’s clinical review of its patients led by my doctors and joined by their colleagues from three Harvard hospitals in Boston, my PET scan results were examined, and one more round of chemotherapy was unanimously recommended to complete my treatment.

My third medical miracle has arrived! According to Dr. Steven Treon, Director of the Bing Center for Waldenström’s Macroglobulinemia in Boston, “From all evidence so far, it appears you may be in complete remission!” My deepest gratitude to him, Dr. Jorge Castillo, Clinical Director of the Bing Center, and my Virginia oncologist for their cooperative spirit with each other on my behalf and extraordinary attention in providing life-saving treatment to me is beyond words. In July 2023, a bone marrow biopsy and CT scans at the Bing Center for WM in Boston are planned to confirm my response.

Yet, again, I am celebrating the gift of life with Tony who has been a saint to me through countless years of ups and downs with experiences as a WM patient. He has been by my side and done absolutely everything possible to love and support me endlessly. For care partners, be sure to get the support you deserve for yourself, as cancer in your world is very challenging for you too.

Amazingly, although I couldn’t swim for seven months, I exceeded my own goal and swam for 40 minutes during my first time back at a pool in my fight to regain strength and normalcy. And I can now walk for 15 minutes outside every day, too, as my swollen feet have resolved. Tony even took me to a favorite place for my March 2023 birthday, the first time we’ve gone to a restaurant since August 2022.

As I mentioned earlier, in sharing my medical miracles with you, my dream is to give you hope for your own cancer treatments – and success. I encourage you to stay in contact with family and friends, be a proactive advocate for yourself, read PEN’s news and that of other relevant cancer support organizations, follow your own status, and reach out to your oncologist immediately with concerns or new symptoms, see a specialist for your specific cancer if possible or have your oncologist consult with one. Stay hopeful and realize that profoundly sophisticated advancements in medical research and science are progressing at a phenomenal pace for all cancers and continue forward with unwavering commitment by medical experts across the globe. I have benefited from this greatly in my own experiences in the past 10 years and may this be truly inspiring for you too!

Wishing you all the best in every way!

Sincerely, Lu Kleppinger


* Brief history…In August of 2012, being highly symptomatic, I was diagnosed with Waldenström macroglobulinemia (WM), One week later, I started chemotherapy provided by my Virginia oncologist. In March 2013, I became a patient of Dr. Steven Treon, Director of the Bing Center for WM/DFCI/Harvard Medical School in Boston and he extended my chemotherapy for an extra year. After 18 months and 50 infusions, it was an extraordinary success and gave me five years of being under control without treatment. In 2014, my hematologist, Dr. Jorge Castillo, Clinical Director at the Bing Center, said “You are doing really, really, great! Go live and have fun!” I did just that.

In 2019, my WM flared up a second time, and Dr. Castillo placed me on ibrutinib (Imbruvica), a daily pill for life. The results were incredible within a month, and my WM was under control yet again. I lived a normal life for three years, feeling cancer-free.

Original Stories of Hope from the first two episodes can be found at Lymphoma.org and IWMF.com.

Blood Cancer Awareness Month 2022

What Do You Need To Know About Waldenström Macroglobulinemia (WM)?

What Do You Need To Know About Waldenström Macroglobulinemia (WM)? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

What should you or your loved ones know following a Waldenström macroglobulinemia (WM) diagnosis? This animated video reviews symptoms of WM, current treatment options and provides key advice for becoming a proactive WM patient.

See More From The Pro-Active Waldenström Macroglobulinemia Patient Toolkit

Related Programs:

Understanding Waldenström Macroglobulinemia and How It Progresses

Understanding Waldenström Macroglobulinemia and How It Progresses

Waldenström Macroglobulinemia Treatment Decisions: What’s Right For You? Resource Guide

Current Waldenström Macroglobulinemia Treatment Approaches

Current Waldenström Macroglobulinemia Treatment Approaches


Waldenström macroglobulinemia, also called Waldenström or WM, is a rare, slow-growing type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma that starts in a person’s white blood cells. Healthy blood cells are crowded out when the bone marrow produces too many malignant white blood cells, and these produce an excess of a protein called immunoglobulin M or IgM.  

Waldenström can cause symptoms that may include: 

  • Fatigue  
  • Unintended weight loss 
  • Fever 
  • Swollen lymph nodes 
  • Enlarged spleen 
  • Unexplained bleeding 
  • And numbness in the hands or feet, which is called peripheral neuropathy 

It’s important to note that not all patients with Waldenström have symptoms when they are diagnosed, and so those patients won’t need treatment immediately. Instead, they are put on an approach called “watchful waiting” or “active surveillance.” This means patients are monitored regularly for indicators that it is time to begin treatment – such as the onset of symptoms.  

So, how is Waldenström typically treated? 

Every patient is different. When making treatment decisions, factors such as the extent of disease and symptoms can impact available options. And potential side effects, a patient’s age, health, and lifestyle are also taken into consideration. 

The good news is that there are several treatment options for Waldenström, including: 

  • Chemotherapy  
  • Targeted therapies such as proteasome inhibitors, BTK inhibitors and BCL2 antagonists; 
  • Immunotherapy  
  • And, clinical trials, which study emerging treatments for Waldenström. It’s important to ask your doctor if there is a trial that may be right for you. 

Less commonly used treatments for Waldenström are stem cell transplant and radiation. 

In the case of hyperviscosity or other IgM-related symptoms, plasmapheresis, also known as plasma exchange, may be used as a temporary measure to manage the issue.    

Now that you understand more about Waldenström, how can you take an active role in your care?  

  • First, continue to educate yourself about your condition. 
  • Understand the goals of treatment and ask whether a clinical trial might be right for you.
  • It also important to consider a second opinion or consult with a specialist following a diagnosis.
  • And, write down your questions before and during your appointments. Visit powerfulpatients.org/wm to access office visit planners to help you organize your thoughts.
  • Bring one or more friends or loved ones to your appointments to help you recall information and to keep track of important details.
  • Finally, remember that you have a voice in your care. Don’t hesitate to ask questions and to share your concerns. You are your own best advocate. 

 To learn more about Waldenström macroglobulinemia and to access tools for self-advocacy, visit powerfulpatients.org/WM.