Former Pierz valedictorian diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma

A benefit for Shane Weber is planned for Saturday, Dec. 15, at the MAC

By Tina SnellStaff Writer

Shane Weber, a 2006 graduate of Pierz Healy High School, was recently diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. A benefit will be held for him and his wife, Rachael, at the Saturday, Dec. 15, boys basketball game against Little Falls at the Memorial Athletic Complex (MAC). Events begin at 6 p.m.

Shane Weber, a graduate of Pierz Healy High School, was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. A benefit has been planned for Saturday, Dec. 15, during the boys basketball game against Little Falls. Pictured is Weber and his wife Rachael.

Weber, the son of Brenda and Frank Weber of Pierz, noticed swollen lymph nodes in his neck during the past summer. The problem came and went, there was no pain and the swelling was not significant. Weber didn’t go to the doctor.

A graduate of the University of Minnesota with a degree in chemical engineering and chemistry, Weber was living in Pennsylvania and working for Arkema, a chemical company. In 2011, he accepted a promotion that required him to move to Beaumont, Texas, an hour east of Houston, Texas.

It was there he had the symptoms, which also included itching.

“He thought it may be due to the change in climate, or possibly a reaction to something in his newly-constructed apartment,” said Brenda.

In September, Weber went to the doctor for a full physical. It had been 2 1/2 years since his previous physical when he was pronounced very healthy. In fact, the doctor told him it was the easiest physical he had ever done.

The doctor did blood work, took a chest x-ray and a computed tomograhy (CT) scan of the swollen lymph nodes.

“The x-ray showed a suspicious mass near the esophagus, but his blood work came back normal,” said Brenda. “The CT scan showed enlarged lymph nodes.”

A biopsy was taken and the diagnosis took about two weeks. On Sept. 15, Weber was told he had Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Hodgkin’s lymphoma is named after Thomas Hodgkin who was the first to describe the condition in 1832. It is a cancer of the lymphatic system which has a systematic spread of the cancer from one lymph node to another. The cells grow abnormally and may spread to other areas.

Hodgkin’s lymphoma is rarer than non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma with less than 1/4 of 1 percent of the population contracting the disease. There are approximately 9,000 cases annually in the United States and less than 1,000 deaths.

After the positive diagnosis, Frank and Brenda flew to be with Shane when he first went to the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. Brenda said it is ranked the top lymphoma clinic in the United States, if not in the world.

“There was a reason Shane moved so close to Houston,” said Brenda.

Weber’s first appointment was Sept. 20. The doctors redid all the previous tests plus took bone marrow, did a positron emission tomography (PET) scan and other diagnostic testing.

The first diagnosis was confirmed, stage 2B Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The lymph nodes affected were in the neck and chest. Those in the neck were primarily on the right side and those in the chest were near the thymus and esophagus.

On Sept. 30, Weber started his chemotherapy. He will have four cycles of two sessions each.

“As of this week, Shane has had five treatments. His last one will be Jan. 7, and he will then have three weeks off,” said Brenda. “Then 17 days of intensity modulated radiation therapy begins.”

Just after the fourth chemotheraphy treatment, Weber learned the cancer was in remission. If it had not been, the regimen would have been changed.

Because Weber’s white blood cell count is low, he is unable to work due to the possibility of contracting infections.

“The chemotherapy is what reduces the white blood cells,” said Brenda. “He has Neulasta shots every 28 days which helps his bone marrow produce both white cells and neutrophils (an abundant type of white blood cells which form part of the immune system).”

Weber’s chemotherapy consists of Adriamycin, Bleomycin, Vinblastine and Dacarbazine, a regimen for newly diagnosed Hodgkin lymphoma patients.

“We learned that 80 percent of Hodgkin’s lymphoma patients respond to this type of chemotherapy,” said Brenda.

Brenda and Frank said their son is staying positive, with lots of support from Rachael. He is keeping his sense of humor.

“He’s quiet though. It’s hard for him to share his feelings. And, he researches everything, even though the doctors told him not to,” Brenda said.

Frank said that when they first saw their son in Texas, he was researching how chemotherapy works.

“The chemicals go into the body and do their job. They then leave immediately,” said Frank. “The period of time between sessions is for healing.”

For now, Weber is not allowed to go into public without a mask to protect him since his immune system is compromised. He cannot work.

“His company will keep his job open for him for six months. They have bent over backwards for him through all this. They have even given him extra leave time while he goes through this,” said Brenda.

The benefit is being planned by former head basketball coach Kurt Stumpf, current head coach Matt

Poepping (a former classmate of Weber’s) and assistant coach Dean Dahmen. The event includes a raffle for a Christmas quilt made by the Pioneer Elementary teachers and a fundraising game of “Lightning” played by the basketball players.

Weber’s brother Preston, will be playing the National Anthem on tenor sax, Frank will present the game ball to the officials and the game will be broadcast live on iHigh, a software program that streams to the Internet so Shane is able to watch.

T-shirts depicting lymphoma awareness will be sold, along with ice cream and brownies.

Weber will be present via a video taped message which was taped at Thanksgiving time.

For more information, contact Dahmen at [email protected].