Bell: Family, friends helped through battle

Published 12:01 am Friday, April 24, 2015

Marisa Bell and Drew Helms are shown. Bell is a Hodgkin lymphoma survivor. | Courtesy photo

Marisa Bell and Drew Helms are shown. Bell is a Hodgkin lymphoma survivor. | Courtesy photo

Lying in bed after one painful chemotherapy treatment, Marisa Bell felt like she was dying.

Bell, an Elba native who has Gantt ties, has been in remission for five years after being diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma, a cancer that starts in the white blood cells called lymphocytes, and affects the lymph nodes. Lymphocytes, which are located in the lymph nodes, are part of the body’s immune system. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is the more common type of cancer as it spreads rapidly.

Bell’s cancer attacked other organs in her body, and because it was spread out so much, chemotherapy was her only option.

“Chemo was all I can do,” she said. “It was spread too much for them to cut anything out. It was everywhere. I had it from my neck to my groin. I had my spleen involved.”

Bell went through six months of chemotherapy at Sacred Heart Hospital in Pensacola, Fla., in the children’s wing. She was in the hospital for two months straight, and had to come back every month for a week at a time.

Then, Bell said she had to go back for one day of treatment, noting that it was the worst of them all.

“That one day one was the worst because there was a really bad one,” she said. “I would go get that and go home, and really just literally felt like death. I would just lay in bed and I felt like I was dying.”

Bell said the whole process of her finding out she had Hodgkin lymphoma was quite “sudden.”

“My dad had just died and so I was skinnier before then,” she said. “You could see all of my bones. Everybody thought I wasn’t eating because I was depressed. So, they would try to get me to eat.”

Bell’s mother, Meridith, took her to the doctor and they gave her some medicine for depression.

“That kind of made my sugar go high, so she took me back to the doctor,” Bell said. “The first time I went to the doctor, they didn’t do any kind of blood work. They just automatically said you’re depressed and gave me those (pills). That kind of made me mad. I went back to the doctor and they finally did blood work. A few days later, they called and asked me to come in so they could speak with me about it.

“The doctor came in and said, ‘Oh, my God,’ when he looked down at it (the chart) in front of me,” she said. “He told me I needed to go to Pensacola to Sacred Heart because it’s possibly lymphoma.”

Because of the intense chemotherapy treatments, Bell lost all of her hair and even her eye lashes. She said everything has grown back.

Bell said she didn’t get nauseous at all during the chemo treatment, except for the last treatment.

“It did affect me,” she said, adding that she had muscular dystrophy in her legs, and couldn’t write for a while.

Bell missed about seven to eight months of high school, but graduated on time from Kinston.

Throughout it all, though, Bell said she wouldn’t have made it without her family.

“My family has been very supportive and they’re just there for me,” she said. “My faith went up times 100. I have a lot of faith now. It was all of the people that I really didn’t know that came together because of it. They still talk to me.”

Bell said her grandmother, Martha Daniels, would bring homemade meals to her every day; her PawPaw, Frank; aunt and uncle, Marcia and Claude Daniels; and sister, Angela, were all the corps of her support.

Now that she’s in remission, Bell said she looks at life a lot differently now.

“Just take every opportunity you can because you never know you may not one day be able to,” she said. “If you want to do something, do it.”

And for those who are suffering from Hodgkin lymphoma, Bell said to not focus on the cancer as much, but to focus on those who are around you and pray a lot.