HEPHZIBAH, Ga. (WJBF) – A rare type of cancer one local mother never even knew existed until her daughter’s diagnosis has her educating others. Her 18- year- old died seven months after getting the life changing news. Now, here mom uses her grief to bring awareness.
The memories? Endless.
“She was born February 9th. Her twin is born February 8th, but they are a set of twins,” Falasha Talbert told NewsChannel 6. “So, every time they would get into an argument, ‘well, we’re not even twins anyway.'”
Talbert recalls the birth of Lashonte’ and Lorente’ 18 years ago just as it was yesterday. The extra special memories, photographed for when she needs help traveling back down memory lane.
“She was outgoing, bright, always upbeat. She never complained about anything. Always had this smile and the most beautiful eyes ever,” she said.
Those brown eyes are now windows to the world Talbert must live after losing Shonte’ to Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. The illness hit the family unexpectedly because Talbert says her teen was healthy.
“There was a lymph node that came up one morning and it was as if this baby grew another neck overnight,” Talbert said. “It was just that swollen.”
That growth on the neck did not hurt to touch and Talbert said doctors wrote it off as Shonte’ being overweight. But Talbert, a mother of ten who works in the medical field, had a gut feeling it was something more. And after Shonte’ took lab tests, results came back Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in March.
Dr. Locke Bryan, a Lymphoma Specialist with Georgia Cancer Center, told us, “So, this is a blood cancer. It typically develops in the lymph nodes, but can often involve the bone marrow or the spleen.”
Dr. Bryan treated Shonte’ at the Georgia Cancer. He said the disease is uncommon with only 6,000 cases each year. And while there’s no set cause, those in their teens and 20s or late 50s and 60s are most at risk.
Dr. Bryan added, “High, spiking fevers at night. The other common symptom is night sweats. So, people have drenching sweats. This can be quite dramatic, so your shirt is completely wet. People tell me they have to lay towels in the bed at night because the bed gets so wet. And then weight loss.”
But for Shonte’, it was just one symptom, the swollen lymph node. Dr. Bryan said Hodgkin’s can be treated with chemotherapy and Shonte’ did just that. But when there is a complication it can be fatal.
“Chemo was fine. The numbers were going fine. Treatment was well. I noticed she was painting that morning. I was like, are you ok baby. She said yes (breathes) ma’am. She couldn’t even get a yes ma’am out,” Talbert said.
She rushed her daughter to the ER and no sooner than they arrived, her lungs began to shut down due to a cold that was dormant. It was a blow her immune system could not handle due to the cancer treatment.
“Pneumonia had set in and it was no bringing her back at that point,” she said.
Shonte’ fought a hard fight, but never left the hospital. She died in October. Now, her mother is an advocate, pushing people to question their health and know what Hodgkin’s Lymphona is all about.
“A friend may be telling you hey, this lump came on my arm. I don’t know where it’s coming from. Tell them to go get it checked out,” Talbert stressed. “Regardless of whether it’s a scratch, go. We’ll figure out bills later.”
The family will hold a candle light vigil to remember her fight. It will be Tuesday, December 24 at 7 o’clock at 2615 Carrington Drive in Hephzibah. Talbert wants people to bring lime green or violet candles and wear a shirt. The vigil is open to the public.