A happy Auburn University student is addressing himself with help from UAB

When Cameron Monistere was diagnosed with cancer right before her senior year of college and final season as an Auburn University cheerleader, she acted quickly. With the help of UAB experts, Monistere is now cancer free and is using his story to raise awareness about men’s health.

Cameron Monistere, a cheerleader at Auburn University, was diagnosed with a rare form of Hodgkin’s lymphoma before his senior year. Photography: Auburn University Photographic Services The summer before Cameron Monistere started his senior year at Auburn University, he felt a lump in his throat. This is not the kind of anxiety-induced metaphor. It is physical in his lymph nodes.

When the lump didn’t go away after a few days, she decided to go to a local urgent care clinic to get evaluated. Worst case, he said, he came down with some kind of cold. Several check-ups later, Monistere still had lumps and sensations that were bothering him about something more than swollen lymph nodes.

Instead of ignoring it, Monistere went to a local ear, nose and throat specialist for testing. Then he went home to Birmingham where experts at the University of Alabama at Birmingham examined his results.

He was right – there was more. The lump in his throat was nodular lymphocyte-dominant Hodgkin’s lymphoma, the rarest form of Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Monistere said. “No one expects to be diagnosed with cancer, especially in college. I was worried about my health and also worried that I would miss my senior year.

Learn more about the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center and UAB Medicine’s cancer services here.

Monistere, an Auburn cheerleader, met with experts at the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at UAB to evaluate her diagnosis and treatment options. For his relief, while rare, NLPHL is a treatable and non-aggressive form of Hodgkin’s lymphoma. She had the option of delaying treatment until her senior year and cheer season, but her doctor urged her to treat her cancer right away.

he UAB team made a treatment plan for Monistere that addressed the cancer and allowed him to be on the sidelines for the last football season. “Cameron was in the early stage of NLPHL, which is the only stage where there is not only an opportunity to treat cancer, but potentially cure it,” said Amitkumar Mehta, M.D., associate professor in the Division of Hematology & Oncology at UAB Marnix E. Heersink School of Medicine. “We want to find a plan that will treat her cancer and still allow her to cheer and participate fully in her senior year.”

First, he received a series of immunotherapy infusions of rituximab, a monoclonal antibody commonly used for non-aggressive Hodgkin lymphoma. Unlike chemotherapy, immunotherapy treatment typically causes few to no side effects. There is no negative reaction, Monistere will be back on the sidelines at the start of the 2022 football season.

The infusions, however, were only step one. Next, he will experience radiation, which can cause damage to other areas around his lymph nodes, especially around the throat and mouth. The side effects of radiation worry Monistere, who will graduate from the Culinary Science program at Auburn’s College of Human Sciences in May 2023. Luckily, UAB has a unique radiation option – proton therapy – that treats lymphoma as well as standard radiation but with fewer side effects. An aspiring chef, Monistere was eager to preserve his taste and smell.

On September 3, 2022, Monistere suited up for Auburn’s first home game. He underwent all four immunotherapy treatments and felt good. On November 1, 2022, Monistere received surprising news from his doctor: His scan was completely clear less than five months after being diagnosed with NLPHL.

Monistere is set to graduate from the Culinary Science program at Auburn’s College of Human Sciences in May 2023. Photography: Auburn University Photographic Services”I never thought I would need a doctor in college. I was young, never had any serious health issues and was a college cheerleader, “said Monistere. “I hope my journey can be an example to others, especially students. We must listen to our bodies. If something feels wrong, don’t ignore it. Take the time to see your doctor for an examination and screening.”

While Monistere didn’t receive proton therapy, she was glad it was an option. More importantly, his attention to his health may have saved him from more serious medical problems.

“It is important that we know about our symptoms and take initiative about our health,” said Mehta. “Cameron is strong and focused and ready to take on the challenge. That’s not always the case when it comes to young people, especially young men.”

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