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With Grace and Strength
27-Year-Old Healthcare Worker Overcomes Hodgkin Lymphoma thanks to Thompson Cancer Survival Center
In 2021, Logan Sluder, 27, of Knoxville, was in the process of planning her wedding and had landed the job of her dreams: caring for patients as a speech-language pathologist. After finishing her master’s degree, Sluder began working at Patricia Neal Rehabilitation Center, East Tennessee’s premier rehab center serving patients recovering from conditions such as stroke, brain injury and spinal cord injury.
However, after several episodes of unexplained illness and weeks of diagnostic testing, Sluder received a diagnosis that put her on the flip side of caregiving and ultimately changed her life. She was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma.
Hodgkin lymphoma is a type of cancer that affects the lymphatic system. With this disease, white blood cells called lymphocytes grow rapidly, causing swollen lymph nodes and growths throughout the body.
After performing a CT scan, doctors discovered a mass in Sluder’s chest. It was a cancerous tumor the size of a golf ball. Sluder was shocked, but the vivacious and bubbly young woman did not let the diagnosis cause her to stumble. She remained steadfast and determined to beat her cancer.
She was referred to Thompson Cancer Survival Center and medical oncologist David Chism, MD. Sluder says, “Dr. Chism was amazing. I can’t sing his praises enough.”
“Logan was very involved in her care plan; she was knowledgeable about her diagnosis and asked many good questions. She took advantage of the many resources Thompson offers to patients undergoing treatment, including our nurse navigation program,” said David Chism, MD.
From Blushing Bride to Fierce Fighter
On Aug. 20, 2021, Sluder and her fiancé were married. During a tropical honeymoon, she immersed herself in the last days of “feeling normal.” The day after she returned, she underwent a complex biopsy procedure to remove as much of the chest tumor as possible.
Nurse Navigators Help Remove Barriers to Care
Shila Newman, RN, OCN, ONN-CG, is an oncology nurse navigator. In her role she helps remove any barriers that keep patients from receiving the care they need.
Newman says, “We lock arms with the patient, oftentimes at diagnosis, and help by educating them, assisting with medical team communication, and making sure they understand their tests, procedures and treatment. We also can help patients manage the side effects of treatment, and offer encouragement along the way.”
She adds, “A diagnosis of cancer can feel overwhelming. As an oncology nurse navigator, I want patients to know they do not have to traverse this devastating diagnosis alone. We stand with them in this fight against cancer. We will walk with them with every step, supporting and empowering them.”
Chemotherapy and Proton Therapy
Sluder completed four treatments of chemotherapy. A multidisciplinary team called a “tumor board” subsequently recommended radiation therapy to ensure all the cancer cells were eliminated. Sluder went on to receive proton therapy at Thompson Proton Center in west Knoxville. Thompson Proton Center is the only center of its kind in the region.
“I finished chemo after Thanksgiving 2021, and the PET scan revealed that the tumor responded to treatment,” she says. “I finished up with proton therapy radiation because of the location of the tumor. It was right next to my heart and lungs, so it was difficult to access. They did anything they could to lessen the severity of damage to the surrounding tissue.”
Newman says, “Logan fought the cancer with this beautiful grace and strength, and she inspires those around her, including me. Her attitude remained positive throughout the side effects of her treatment.”
Thanks to compassionate care and expert treatment from the team at Thompson, Sluder is in remission and will soon reach her one-year mark of finishing treatment.
“Trying to stay alive, you don’t have a chance to reflect on anything during treatment,” she says. “After is when it hits you. I lost my hair; I didn’t look like me. I didn’t recognize the person in the mirror during this traumatic time.
“I learned during this journey that you do not know how strong you are until your only choice is to be strong,” Sluder says. “I have been so blessed with amazing friends and family, including my work family, because they provided emotional and physical support throughout my entire journey.
“Every day, I continue to feel more and more like myself. In these past nine months I have achieved professional and career goals, traveled the world and celebrated my first wedding anniversary. I’m continuing to challenge myself to be a better clinician to serve the patients I see every day at Patricia Neal Rehab Center.
“To my husband, my parents and many friends who supported me, I leaned on my village and my village came through for me,” Sluder says. “Without them, fighting the battle would not have been possible.”