Sam Glasgow Still Enjoying Life 10 Years After Diagnosis with a Rare Lymphoma
Sam Glasgow of Cookeville, a very active retiree, realized something was wrong when he was getting increasingly tired on his regular bike rides.
“I noticed that, going up Brotherton Mountain, I was getting more winded than I should have, so I started having my blood checked, and my hemoglobin was going down,” said Glasgow. “They did tests to see if I was losing blood, and they found out that I wasn’t making blood.”
A bone marrow biopsy showed that Glasgow had Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia (WM), a rare type of lymphoma (cancer of the lymph tissue) that grows in the bone marrow and crowds out the normal cells that make blood cells.
“WM is a slow-growing lymphoma that is not very aggressive,” said Dr. Venumadhav Kotla, Glasgow’s oncologist at the Cookeville Regional Cancer Center. “The defining feature of Waldenstrom is production of IgM protein, an immunoglobulin that is not a functioning protein. It makes the blood viscous (thick), which is what causes the symptoms patients experience.”
Symptoms of WM can include anemia, fatigue, weakness, blurred vision, loss of vision, headaches, loss of appetite, fever, sweats, weight loss and possibly numbness or “pins and needles” sensations in the feet and legs.
With proper treatment, however, patients with WM can continue to live long, active lives.
“The treatments can range from something simple, like careful observation, especially if patients are not very symptomatic, to very mild treatments like immunotherapy with a medication called Rituxan®,” said Dr. Kotla. “If the disease starts escalating, depending on the intensity, there are chemotherapy regimens that can be used.”
Glasgow was diagnosed with WM in 2011 and underwent therapy with Rituxan and a chemotherapy called Velcade® for a year and a half. His WM went into remission with no further symptoms until November 2019, when his regular follow-up blood checks showed that his hemoglobin levels were dropping once more. Dr. Kotla placed him on a second regimen of Rituxan, which he receives every eight weeks, and Glasgow’s blood counts are improving, meaning the therapy is working.
Fortunately, even if Glasgow has another relapse in the future that is not responsive to Rituxan, or if it should happen too soon to use Rituxan again, there are many other options available for his continued care.
“I tell patients that we’re probably never going to run out of treatment options, and I think, as Sam Glasgow’s case illustrates, oftentimes you can re-treat patients again with the first regimen, especially if they’ve had a good response to it,” said Dr. Kotla.
Because of the state-of-the-art care available at Cookeville Regional, patients with WM can receive the therapies they need right here in our community.
“Years ago, people would have had to go to Vanderbilt earlier in the course of their disease, but now these patients have been able to be cared for in the community for several years,” said Dr. Kotla. “I think we still would be able to care for them for years to come with the available advances in medicine.”
Glasgow, a retired pathologist who worked at CRMC for 26 years, was glad to be able to stay close to home for his treatments.
“It’s been almost 10 years since I was diagnosed, and the care I’ve received at Cookeville Regional has been the very best,” said Glasgow. “You don’t have to drive to Nashville. We have great doctors who have all the chemo and immunotherapies that you need, right here in Cookeville.”