Four cycles of chemotherapy, 12 spinal taps and one surgery later, Ryan Hinterleiter is officially cancer free.
The news came Monday after Hinterleiter, a 20-year-old UF business administration junior, underwent 12 weeks of treatment for Stage 3 Burkitt’s lymphoma, a form of cancer recognized as the fastest-growing human tumor, that began in September.
What Hinterleiter thought was a stomach cramp in early August ended up being the result of an aggressive cancer that attacks the immune system. After assessing his softball-sized tumor, doctors knew immediately that Hinterleiter could possibly face a death sentence.
Four months ago, doctors told Hinterleiter he would likely get sick often and need emergency medical attention during chemotherapy. But Hinterleiter said his process was flawless.
“I didn’t think it would be as easy as it was,” Hinterleiter said. “With the first dose of chemo in the first three days, [the tumor] shrunk 70 percent.”
A nurse at UF Health Shands Hospital told Hinterleiter he was one of two patients she’d worked with who didn’t need blood or platelets during chemotherapy.
Despite his body handling the treatment well, Hinterleiter said he had his good and bad days. Mouth sores, nausea and constant lethargy were the worst symptoms.
“You don’t want to move, you don’t want to eat. You just kind of sleep it out,” he said. “It kind of just takes the life out of you.”
His family kept him from sinking into a depression and kept his boredom at bay, he said. His two sisters, Cori and Logan, and his dad drove to Gainesville from Tampa, Jacksonville and Hobe Sound, Florida, almost every weekend while his mom lived in his living room on an air mattress.
Cori Hinterleiter, 25, said she has seen her once “nagging little brother” mature in the last few months.
“He’s my little brother but in a literal and hypothetical sense, I look up to him,” she said.
The next step for Hinterleiter comes Friday.
His “PowerPort,” a small, implantable port underneath his skin used to administer the chemotherapy, will be surgically removed. Every three months after, he will receive different ultrasounds, scans and electrocardiograms, or EKGs.
Hinterleiter is already getting back into his normal schedule. He is taking 14 credit hours of classes and talking to recruits for his fraternity, Delta Tau Delta, this week.
“He, being Ryan, was not going to take it easy,” Cori Hinterleiter said. “I think it helps him heal just being able to be normal.”
Ryan Hinterleiter, 20, and his oldest sister, Cori, 25, spent almost every weekend together during his 12-week chemotherapy treatments that began in September. Cori Hinterleiter said she and her brother would tease their mother, Nancy, who constantly asked for pictures of the two. Courtesy to The Alligator