Erin Geddis Cummings
Erin was just fifteen years old when diagnosed with Hodgkin Lymphoma, Stage IIIB, in 1972. She was treated with surgery and several courses of cobalt radiation therapy. After two recurrences of the disease, Erin was also given MOPP chemotherapy- largely considered an “experimental” form of treatment at the time. She managed to have a busy and full high school career, and went on to attend college and later graduate school, receiving a Masters in Social Work. She married and adopted four children from South Korea.
Like many long-term survivors of Hodgkin’s, Erin developed some of the negative side effects of that early treatment. They included thyroid, lung, and heart disease, requiring a thyroidectomy, lung biopsies, and open heart surgery to replace her aortic valve. Erin chose to have prophylactic bi-lateral mastectomies due to the increased risk of breast cancer for women with her medical profile.
Erin was fortunate to enjoy good health in between these multiple surgeries and hospitalizations. She credits it to the fact that she “kept moving, no matter what.” Since 1982, Erin has completed eight marathons, six as a member of “Fred’s Team,” to raise funds for Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, where she was treated as a teenager.
In all her years as a survivor, Erin rarely came into contact with, or even knew about adult survivors of Hodgkin Lymphoma. After a chance meeting with a fellow HL patient at Massachusetts General Hospital, Erin became determined to find others who were “just like her.” Her search led her to the internet, and eventually to Dolly Griffin.
Dolly Griffin (written by Dave Cobb)
Dolly was diagnosed with HL in 1978, and after a staging laparotomy was determined to be Stage IIIB. She was given multiple doses of radiation and MOPP chemotherapy, as well as Interferon treatments. Dolly was originally given a prognosis of 3-5 years. She lived each year in fear, but furiously and robustly.
Dolly loved the learning process. After being diagnosed, she went back to school for a degree in Microbiology. Dolly took up painting, pottery, and jewelry making as hobbies. She became a Texas “Master Gardener.” Dolly became prolific at the computer, receiving multiple certificates for her proficiency and upgrading her skills level by level. She went on to create a career in assisting small businesses, but she also offered to help out anyone who just needed a computer “fix,” free of charge.
The long-term effects of the treatment for HL hit Dolly hard. She never regained her former strength. She suffered from chronic bowel issues for over two decades. She had her thyroid and gall bladder removed, and in July of 2014 was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer. In spite of everything, Dolly maintained a gracious and optimistic attitude. She had the remarkable ability to find the best in others and to make the most out of each and every day.
Though always rather quiet and shy, Dolly became a spokesperson for the many long-term Hodgkin’s survivors that she met and supported through social media. Her wit, dry sense of humor, and incredibly generous spirit were far-reaching. Dolly was often the first person to respond to someone in need of advice or a virtual “hug,” and she was vigilant in her determination to remember and reach out to all those she encountered.
In 2015, Dolly and her husband Dave travelled through twenty six states in an attempt to meet as many HL survivors as possible. The “Dolly Train” was successful in bringing small groups of HL survivors together for the first time, creating immediate bonds and lifelong friendships, and engendering a commitment to what would eventually become “Hodgkin’s International.”