In Todd Howard’s mind, he was
invincible. Active in an array of water
sports, he never thought he could be
taken away from the glistening of the
Then the invincibility was yanked
from him 8212; at 19, he was diagnosed
with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. There was
a tumor the size of a deck of cards in
the right side of his body.
Early in his second semester at TCU,
Howard said a hard workout pulled the
trigger on the unknown tumor. It was
a coincidence that saved his life.
“That day started the chain of
events,” Howard said.
On a Tuesday morning in late March,
Howard woke to find that he could
not get out of bed. Soreness in the
right side of his body had turned into
a sharp pain.
Howard went to the emergency
room at Harris Methodist Hospital.
After a CT scan, doctors told Howard
he should go see Dr. David Barrera,
hematologist and oncologist at Texas
Oncology in Fort Worth.
When Howard told his mother about
the biopsy, she said, he spoke with
such ease that she knew he had no
idea of what the doctor’s appointment
“I didn’t think twice about it. They
told me I was going to see an oncolo-
gist,” Howard said. “My mom asked
me, “Todd, do you know what that is?’ I
didn’t, and she told me it was a cancer
specialist 8212; that’s when I knew what
it could lead to.”
On April 5, Dr. Barrera told them the
mass in Howard’s body was Hodgkin’s
After a moment of silence, Howard
turned to his mother, Kayla Howard.
“Mom, after all these years of being
invincible, I have cancer.”
Howard was scheduled to start che-
motherapy the following Thursday,
then undergo a 24-week treatment.
Within the week, Howard flew home
to Nebraska for another set of CT scans
with a cancer specialist at the Univer-
sity of Nebraska, Omaha, Medical Cen-
ter. After a week of waiting, Howard
and his parents got the results.
“We were really worried,” his mother
said. “But the doctor just assured us.
He told us he had good news.”
It was good news: Howard didn’t
have Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. He had
been misdiagnosed, but he did have
a rare condition called Castleman’s
“It was a big relief, but I still had
a disease,” he said. “I never believed
I had cancer, but it was like the train
that hit us before was coming back and
hitting us again. I was floored.”
The tumor was embedded in the
walls and muscle of his abdominal cav-
ity. The operation would cut him from
armpit to upper thigh, and the surgery
would have a six-to-nine-month recov-
ery process, immobilizing him.
Though Howard’s disease is dormant
and has had no significant growth,
Howard has to get even a slight cold
checked out. For the past year, Howard
has been making trips back and forth
from Omaha to monitor his tumor.
“Usually when I go get a checkup it
lasts a full day. I’m miserable after it,”
Howard said. “I don’t want to do this
for the rest of my life.”
In the year since the misdiagnosis,
Kayla Howard said she’s seen a change
in her son.
“He’s not invincible now, but there’s
a certain smile about him,” she said.
“He just doesn’t take it for granted.”
Now 20, Howard hasn’t forgotten
“You never know what’s going to
happen to you,” Howard said. “I’m the
luckiest person in the world. It’s like
I’ve been given a second chance.”
In Todd Howard’s mind, he was