Still Invincible


    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
    blue water.
    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
    would entail.
    “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
    the experience.
    “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.”